Moving Backward to Go Forward

Kathy Dunn Hamrick

<i>The Big Push</i>
The Big Push

How to fix a thorny problem: Start at the end and work backward.

That is how choreographer Kathy Dunn Hamrick tackled one of her newest pieces, "City Scenes," set to a glorious Gordian knot of a score by New York percussionist and composer Darren Castello. Loving the challenge of constantly changing meter, Hamrick deconstructed the movement patterns while pursuing the elusive beginning of the piece. It's a refreshing way to work, wondering if you will begin where you hoped you would.

Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company springs forward into its fourth season with a new concert format for its opening offering, The Big Push. Though known for choreographically luscious evening-length musings on heady themes, the company is contemplating shorter pieces, retrospection, and greater mobility this time out. The program will include "Woman Smiling," an enlarged reworking of the playfully competitive Piazzolla tango duet from its 1999 concert So Close, and "Slammed," a semi-autobiographical work exploring a lifetime's worth of verbal, physiological, kinetic, and emotional slamming. Given Hamrick's propensity for layered imagery and sly humor, this piece should be a treat for the eye and the head, but it also represents another point of departure for this small, tightly knit group: using guest dancers to flesh out, as it were, the larger pieces.

What does all this change mean? It's time to take a second look at the company's older works and to prepare for its next phase of growth, which includes seeking greater exposure for the company outside Austin. Shorter works tour more easily and adhere to time limitations at festivals. Larger casts expose more local dancers to the KDHDC style, a time-saving benefit for future dancemaking.

When every piece a dance company creates is completely new, developing a solid repertory takes years. It isn't like a theatre, opera, or ballet company that may draw on plays, librettos, or storylines that already exist. There is no established material, nothing set using that choreographer's particular technique. Creating dances is like being an explorer; no one has been there before.

Some choreographers, like Hamrick, tackle this challenge by going through the middle to get back to the beginning before taking a good look around. With The Big Push, it promises to be one hell of a trip.

Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company presents The Big Push April 26-28, Friday-Saturday, 8pm, Sunday, 5pm, at the State Theater, 719 Congress. For more information, call 891-7703 or visit

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The Big Push, Kathy Dunn Hamrick, Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company, So Close, City Scenes, Darren Castello, Woman Smiling, Slammed

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