Linking Leaps

Professional dance troupe knits art into community.

Creating links with their arms, Contemporary Dance Wyoming members crawled through the holes made by each other’s bodies. The movements were a type of knitting—looping themselves and their experiences as performers together like yarn.

The concept for Contemporary Dance Wyoming’s summer concert is about interweaving the company’s new members—and maybe even the modern dancers—into the community.

“It’s about knitting lives together and how they connect artistically and on a day-to-day basis,” said Rachel Holmes, Dancers’ Workshop’s school director and new company member. “Especially us as dancers working together all the time.”

Contemporary Dance Wyoming is the only professional modern dance company in the state. Founded in 1983 as an adult repertory company by Dancers’ Workshop, the troupe has evolved over the years into the fully professional company it is today under Babs Case, artistic director of Dancers’ Workshop.

“Contemporary Dance Wyoming is deliberately part of an ecosystem and feeds the other parts of the organization,” said Amanda Flosbach, Dancers’ Workshop’s development director. “What it actually ends up doing is it enables us to elevate everything that is happening here.”

The company enables Dancers’ Workshop to attract highly qualified teachers and gives them an outlet to stretch their creative and dance muscles by creating and choreographing, she said.

“What, to me, is amazing about CDW and our community in general is because we are so small, we have such easy access in such a meaningful way to talented athletes and dancers,” she said. “[Dancing] is not an abstract idea for our students.

“I think it says a lot about a community if a community is willing to support something for the purpose of creating new art.”

The company also helps attract new professionals to the area.

Contemporary Dance Wyoming recently added two new members: Holmes and Francesca Romo, Dancers’ Workshop’s ballet mistress.

Both dancers visited Jackson with other companies as artists-in residence before moving to the valley to work for the nonprofit full time. Holmes performed with Elisa Monte Dance and Romo was a part of Gallim Dance.

“I kind of just got to the point where I wanted something big to change in my life,” Holmes said. “I needed something vastly different.”

That’s what attracted her to Jackson. After 12 years in Manhattan, she was ready for small-town life. The dance company is different than what she is used to, too.

“It’s more improv-based than what I’m used to,” she said.

The dancers help Case choreograph. For the knitting piece, which they will be performing this summer, the dancers were given a few directions and then assigned to create duets.

“It’s much more of a collaborative effort with everyone in the company as opposed to one person telling you what they want you to do,” Holmes said. “It’s interesting when you’re given ideas to play with what you come up with is different than someone else comes up with. Multiple perspectives makes it fuller in a way.”

That is how Case and the dancers linked together the conceptual and experimental piece about knitting. The troupe has also been working with guest artists-in-residence Manuel Vignoulle of Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, Rena Butler of Bill T Jones/Arnie Zane Dance and Jonathan Windham of Gallim Dance, who is also performing with the company in June. The company has been holding open rehearsals to include the community in on its artistic process and drum up some more interest and awareness for the professional troupe.

Contemporary Dance Wyoming is Holmes and Romo, along with Kate Kosharek, Lindsay Larson, Cady Cox, and Marissa Moeri.

Contemporary Dance Wyoming will perform its concert “Up Close” at 8 p.m. June 18 and 19 in the Center for the Arts’ Theater.