Breathe, Fall, Suspend

Kathy Dunn Hamrick explains what modern dance is and why she keeps making it

Breathe, Fall, Suspend

Spring is a time for renewal, for fresh perspectives, for rebirth and rejuvenation, so it's appropriate that each spring Kathy Dunn Hamrick and the dancers in her company premiere a new piece. If you're a dance neophyte, like me, or just a plain couch potato, you might ask, "So what? Why should I make the effort to go out and try something new?"

"Live performance is very special," says Hamrick. "People have to make a concerted effort to attend; it's not something that you do by accident, and I believe people leave the performance at least a little bit changed.

"Modern dance is important because, like all art forms, it's a direct reflection of the culture. We learn from it. For instance, ballet uses a linear storyline and has a set vocabulary. It happens within a strict framework. The dancer is light and airy, and the spine is straight. Modern dance couldn't be more different. It's about invention. The movement evolves to embody your ideas. There's no fixed vocabulary – we evolve and create our vocabulary every day, and it centers on the use of the spine. The spine is incredibly expressive and manipulative, and we curl, spiral, bend. We're not necessarily doing steps with our feet and legs. We breathe, fall, suspend. And we take our shoes off."

She has my interest. Why this new piece, "Blurred," then? "We were performing in Chicago last summer in a studio space, and on one particular exit I had to walk backwards. Suddenly, instead of being backstage in a wing, I was in another space, light and bright and airy – and I got an idea. I stopped the dress rehearsal and started talking about having two different dances going on in two different spaces simultaneously, with the audience moving back and forth, or entering on two separate dances. It's since evolved into a chronicle of how we integrate new things – people, pets, ideas, events, experiences – into our personal space, our minds, and our lives."

Now I'm definitely intrigued. In addition to "Blurred," Hamrick commissioned a new dance from longtime New York choreographer, now Austin resident, Lisa Nicks and is offering two dances from guests KDNY (Kathleen Dyer New York), so for this weekend's production, City Mix, you have not just a full evening but a sampling of a broad range of modern dance.

"I'm trying to be very truthful as a choreographer. I'm not trying to sell anything. I'm trying to communicate and reveal. I believe the motive for creating art should be selfless and generous. I have to use movement because sometimes I can't find the right words."

You may not be trying to sell anything, Ms. Hamrick, but I think I'm sold. end story

Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company presents City Mix May 1-2, Saturday, 8pm, and Sunday, 5pm, at the State Theater, 713 Congress. For more information, call 891-7703 or visit

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Austin dance, Kathy Dunn Hamrick, Blurred, Lisa Nicks, KDNY, Kathleen Dyer New York, City Mix

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