In January 2012, several of Rochester's leading dance groups came together to create a collaborative performance known as Fabo Collabo. Geomantics Dance Theater, the Bill Evans Dance Company, FuturPointe Dance, BIODANCE, and Push Physical Theatre shared the Geva Nextstage. Now, Fabo Collabo is back, but in a very different way. This year, it is more of a mini-dance festival than a single performance.
Starting on June 4, master classes took place for students at School of the Arts. Dance majors at the school got a firsthand look at how the various groups create and perform their pieces. This weekend, June 8 and 9, Geomantics, Bill Evans Dance, FuturPointe Dance, and BIODANCE will perform at the school. (Note that Push Physical Theatre will not be a part of this year's Fabo Collabo due to scheduling issues.)
Fabo Collabo's involvement with SOTA holds significant meaning for many of the professional dancers involved. Bill Evans, creator of Bill Evans Dance, says that the school's large stage was only part of the reason it was chosen as a new venue for the event.
"We were talking to people at SOTA, and they thought it would be wonderful to get the students involved," says Evans. "We noticed that a lot of the students do not see local dance companies perform, which is really sad. We wanted them to have this inspiration that would get them interested in the local dance groups and would help us get to know them, and we could then invite them to see the concerts."
Evans says that part of the lack of student involvement in local dance groups may be financial, but it's more than just that.
"Young people are so digital and they have access to the whole world on their tiny screens," he says. "Live performances are so much better and so different than on a screen, but I don't think many of them realize that."
Guy Thorne, founder of FuturPointe Dance, agrees that working with SOTA students is one of the most important aspects of this year's version of the event. "We will get to connect with future audiences, show them what they are going to see and even do in the future," Thorne says. "These kids are going to be either future artists or future patrons."
Rochester audiences can expect a wide range of performances this weekend. Each group's unique style influences its choreography, music, and set pieces.
"The great thing about this show is that the works of each group are pretty dissimilar from each other," says Missy Pfohl Smith, the artistic director of BIODANCE. "That makes for a great show."
Smith's group will be performing one of multiple world premieres at Fabo Collabo. The piece is titled "Letter to the World (1.5)," and was choreographed by guest artist D. Chase Angier. It deals with the growing isolation in our society, and how technology can keep people from connecting with each other, Smith says. BIODANCE will also perform "No Dancing Allowed," choreographed by Smith.
"The piece is set in the 1940's, so it has some lindy hop, some swing dance, but it's also about recycling American history," says Smith. "It focuses on how gender roles changed during the war when women had to go to work."
Another world premiere being shown at Fabo Collabo is Bill Evans Dance Company's "For Jaime," which Evans choreographed to Johannes Brahms' Piano Quartet. On Saturday, the group will perform "Tres Tango." On Sunday, this piece will be replaced by "The Field of Blue Children," a Rochester premiere. Later on this summer, Bill Evans Dance will take some of these pieces to Jacob's Pillow in Massachusetts, one of the oldest and most prominent dance festivals.
Geomantics Dance Theater will be performing "Dear Abbey Suite" and "Shadow Light," both choreographed by artistic director Richard Haisma.
FuturPointe Dance will be performing what founder Guy Thorne describes as a "reggae ballet." The piece, titled "Mother Gooseland," was choreographed by trop member N'Jelle Gage. The group's second piece is called "Urban Fissure," and was choreographed by Christopher Walker.
"It's about the immigration of West Indian people to America, the struggles and triumphs they experienced, and their assimilation into American culture," says Thorne. "It looks at how Caribbean culture navigated that experience." A few days after Fabo Collabo, FuturPointe will be traveling to New York City to perform at New York Live Arts, a venue that showcases cutting edge, socially conscious dance groups.
In a small but arts-filled town like Rochester, this kind of collaboration is vital. More and more, artists are beginning to work together to overcome some of the financial setbacks facing arts groups. Rochester's theater groups have already seen success through collaboration — the TheatreROCs organization features 22 different local groups working together to build their audiences.
"I hope local arts groups in Rochester keep collaborating," says Evans. "Rochester is fortunate in that we're so small but there is so much dance here. Collaboration is so important, because it creates awareness of all the great groups that are here. It creates excitement, it builds our audiences, it helps to get people interested."
By sharing everything from websites and marketing to stages and audiences, artist collaboration can benefit artists and art lovers alike. How else would you be able to see nearly all of Rochester's dance groups on one night?