“I’d like to invite you to take off your shoes,” an artist known by A. Litaker says. “Go ahead and find a space on the floor, and lie down.”
Audience members lower themselves to the ground, a few sharing hesitant glances before removing their coats and boots and joining in. Soon they fill the floor space of Studio 323 in the Greensboro Cultural Center. They each connect their backs to the floor, knees up and heels flat, as guided by Litaker. She asks them to immerse themselves more, covering their eyes and really assessing their bodies.
The routine contrasts with what most would expect from a dance performance, but Litaker and her somatic exercises open the Dance Project’s Artist in Residence Showcase. The Friday night featured four dancers, Litaker, along with Dylan Reddish, Anne Edwards, and LeDarius Parker, sharing a culmination of their practices from the past semester. The four, along with Tarayjah Hoey-Gordon, were granted use of the studios for the past semester as part of their residency.
Now in its fourth semester, the program offers a chance for dancers and choreographers at all stages in their careers and from all disciplines to use the studio space for free. As artists in residence, they work without parameters or financial pressure, allowing them the opportunity to fine-tune and workshop pieces in progress, begin large projects, and experiment.
Anne Edwards, fresh from matriculation at Hollins University over the summer, used her first space outside of academia to find her own footing. The months brought her introspection, a theme she hoped to convey in what she calls the Grey Shirt Series.
“It was instrumental in creating my own artistic process,” she says.
Edwards begins with a look off into the distance, past the crowd, as sounds of static ring out over the speakers. She vaults each arm over her head, circling her shoulders. She spins into a kneeling position, hands tense. Each finger opens and closes from her fist, her gaze regarding each digit as she works through both hands. The white noise continues, leaving nothing to think about other than the movement.
After using much of her time to workshop a collaboration called “Love Notes from the Skeletons in My Closet,” Reddish offered the audience a lighter note. Prior to her dance, she holds up a bundle of papers — passes from a nearby parking deck, which Reddish drew on. Each drawing Reddish has interpreted into a movement.
“I call it noodling and doodling,” Reddish says.
A series of high-energy spins, jumps and steps begins to calm as she falls back. Once on the ground, she raises her arms up, forming a 90-degree angle. She snaps. A roll brings her back to the starting position, hands in the air. She snaps again.
LeDarius Parker used his time at the residency to test out a form new to him — theatrical dance. During the show, he moves the chairs, making a runway that leaves two open areas on each end of the studio. These serve as the stages for his 21-minute long piece — “Human Nature” — which involves an entire crew of dancers.
“It’s the first piece I get to do that I feel is really open creatively,” he says.
Each half of the crew takes to a side of the room. One half, decked out in neon and patterns dances sporadically, moving unpredictably and intensely. The other makes each small gesture purposeful, wearing head-to-toe black. Parker set the story as a tale of going against societal norms and assimilation.
“Human Nature,” Parker explains, also confirms his aim to produce a larger hip-hop fantasy show titled Fairy Kingdom, which he hopes to take to New York City. He says the semester allowed him to balance his street dance background with the dance-studio world. “Being from both worlds,” he says, “I hear both sides of the story and can bring both worlds together.”