Fourth Annual Ultimate Book & Dance Affair

Some choreographers walk into a book sale ...

Jessica Lindberg Coxe performing Lily of the Nile
Jessica Lindberg Coxe performing "Lily of the Nile" (Photo courtesy of Diana Ruettiger)

Martha Jones, 72, has been taking dance classes two or three times per week since her college days. But as a nonprofessional, she can count on one hand the number of times she's had the chance to perform. In a Sunday evening rehearsal, she and six other women from Kathy Dunn Hamrick's beginning modern class worked with choreographer Lisa Nicks to prepare for such a rare opportunity. The occasion is the Hamrick Dance Company's Book & Dance Affair fundraiser, for which Nicks is creating a dance, set to an Oscar Peterson jazz recording, for the adult students. In the as-yet-untitled work, there are a few true beginners (the youngest, an 18-year-old, asked to be in the piece after her first-ever dance class), but most of the movers have some history with dancing, however recreational. (Two of the participants are dancemakers themselves: Mysti Jace Pride, who has logged in just five years of dance classes, presented a piece at this year's Big Range Austin dance festival; Karin Carlson creates outdoor movement pieces and has of late been entertaining commuters in morning traffic with intersection performances about the work–play dichotomy.) Whatever their experience and maturity, in the studio the women were dancers, and the rehearsal was swift and intensive. Nicks, in quirky, purple, tapered sweatpants, taught movement phrases that were simple yet spatially interesting and explored relationships among the dancers, who were eager for every minute of it.

Nicks' piece is just one of a dozen works by as many area choreographers that are on the schedule for the two-hour affair, which is more casual than it sounds: It's housed in a studio, there's no minimum donation, and audience members can come and go as they please. The program also includes "Remember to Forget," a trio by Michelle Nance that dates from Big Range Austin 2008 and shows women seemingly on safari encountering something elusive and primal. Mandie Pitre is bringing a work that incorporates movements from break dance, a recent focus of hers. And allow me to digress on the contribution of Jessica Lindberg Coxe, a dancer-historian who reconstructs works by Loie Fuller (1862–1928). If you've taken dance history 101, you know that Fuller was an innovator of theatrical lighting, but the casual nature of the affair rules out fancy bulb work. Turns out, as Coxe has discovered, there's more to Fuller's work than illumination, including a loyal musicality that may come across as overly literal today but was an art nouveau extension of the organic female ideal. Lindberg Coxe will perform her reconstruction of Fuller's 1896 "Lily of the Nile," only she'll wear a costume with a lesser wingspan than the 16 feet "Lily" usually requires. (Fuller moved rods, as extensions of her arms, inside her costumes, rippling yards of white silk to reflect colored lighting.)

Add to those performances a solo by the contagiously energetic Leah Smiley Tubbs, a reprise of Matt Williams' loads-of-fun Michael Jackson tribute from January's Dance Carousel, and an Isadora Duncan–inspired piece by historian Meg Brooker. And maybe some human sculptures. And, oh, the book thing: There will be a sale (new and used) outside the studio.

The fourth annual Ultimate Book & Dance Affair takes place Saturday, Sat., July 18, 5:30–7:30pm, at Cafe Dance, 3307-B Hancock. For more information, visit

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Fourth Annual Ultimate Book & Dance Affair, Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company, Lisa Nicks, Michelle Nance, Mandie Pitre, Matt Williams, Big Range Austin, Dance Carousel

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