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Interview with Backhausdance and Jennifer Backhaus

May 30, 2011

When and why was the company started?
The company was started in 2003 as a way to develop my choreographic skills- I was getting good reviews and positive feedback about my work and I had trained a number of dancers at Chapman University who were interested in pursuing professional careers in Southern California.

What’s the underlying philosophy and purpose of Backhausdance?
The underlying philosophy of Backhausdance is the creation of excellent art. This means well crafted choreography that is performed by dedicated, well trained, artistic dancers. I like to work with people who are passionate about dance and making dances. This includes all of our collaborators- lighting designers, costume designers, graphic designers etc. We also believe engaging all types of audiences- and opening their eyes to the power of concert dance. In spite of our relatively small organization I think we produce the level of quality that you would see anywhere. Our annual show at the Irvine Barclay is a great example of that. We produce that show every year and we’re very proud of the production level that we’re able to achieve. In addition to performing, we have a strong drive to engage and educate the community about the relevance of concert dance. To that end we have a very strong and active educational component, reaching thousands of school age children.

Has this changed since the company was first founded?
The idea of what and how we do things hasn’t changed but the amount of opportunities has. And the company has changed a lot. We started with 6 dancers and me. We now have a full roster of trainee dancers, apprentice dancers and full performing dancers. We have an excellent Executive Director, Jeremy Hunt, who works with me and helps steer the ship. The company has expanded our scope and size to accommodate the amount of work we do both in educational settings as well as touring and producing our own concerts.

What is your favorite piece of choreography to date?
My favorite piece always seems to be the one I am working on now. Ha. I think my current favorite is Incandescent. It took so long to create and has gotten such a huge audience response, which is very fulfilling. Although, I am also loving the new piece, Duet(s). The dancers personalities are really adding to the work, and that is exciting.

Briefly tell us about the pieces in your upcoming show.
La Jupe is a piece about the attempt to get rid of things that don’t serve us anymore. It is performed by 4 women and the movement is very fluid and feminine. eXit deals with confinement. Its movement quality is the opposite of La Jupe. Where La Jupe is fluid and curvy, eXit is linear and bound. In this incarnation it is being performed by 3 men which adds to its aggressive and athletic quality. Shift is a piece about moving through stages. It is in 4 movements called Sink, Push, March and Float. The dancers go on this journey or process together and end up triumphant at the end. The new piece, Duet(s) is about relationships. It has fast intricate partnering that is a metaphor for conversation and conflict. It has a sense of humor and charm alongside a darker undertone of conformity and desperation.

What do you hope to evoke in your audience at “Backhausdance: Reimagined”?
I hope that people are engaged with the work. I hope that they come away feeling something different than when they walked in. All of the dances deal with humanity and relationships, so I hope that the audience can see themselves in the work somewhere.

If you could wave a magic wand, what would you like to see for Backhausdance in the future?
We would add to our list of supporters, fans, donors and corporate sponsors, having more opportunities to fund our programs. We’re slowly expanding our reach and notoriety outside of California and we would like to continue that in bigger ways.

Any words of advice or inspiration for other dancers?
Make sure that you love this field. It’s very difficult. But if you really love this art form, stick with it. Work hard, be reliable, be consistent. It will pay off in the end.

Backhausdance will be performing “Re-imagined” at the South Coast Repertory on June 10-12, 2011. For more information on the company and tickets to the show, visit: http://www.backhausdance.org/

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