By Laurie Dietrich
Did you know May is National Dance Month? Who decides these things, anyway? Not that there shouldn't be a month devoted to dance, but why May, particularly? Is this a Mayday, fun-and-frolic connection? Perhaps someone more enlightened than I am (and let us hope there are many) knows the answer.
W-I-P is Works-in-Progress/Wednesdays-in-Performance, a collaboration between Jump-Start Performance Co. and the San Antonio Dance Umbrella. Dance Umbrella's website (www.sadu.org) calls it a choreography development program, but over the years W-I-P has proved to be a bit broader than that.
Jump-Start company member Paul Bonin Rodriguez was one of the folks heading up Dance Umbrella in 1994, when W-I-P began. "We recognized that there was a big gap between new choreography and polished productions and that many dancers in this town found themselves having to make a full production just to share their work," he explains. "The idea was that audiences would come to recognize and appreciate the artistic process and artists would feel the community support and interest."
Current co-coordinator, and Jump-Start company member S.T. Shimi emphasizes the value this kind of "lab" approach has to the local dance and performance community. She thinks W-I-P is vital to both Jump-Start's mission and the creative life of the city because "it is the main, possibly only, venue in this city for new/in-progress dance and performance work on a regular basis. Because for 3-5 dollars, people not only get to see the seeds of a new work but they get to ask questions about and get a sense of an artist's thought process." As an artist herself, she adds, "W-I-P is about the opportunity to pour your art onto the stage, as it were, and see what sticks. And to ask questions about it."
The questions come in the form of the Lerman Critical Response Method, used by the Jump-Start company and designed into W-I-P from the beginning. Monthly W-I-Ps are limited to three performers, to allow time for critical response from the audience. Created by dancer/choreographer Liz Lerman, Critical Response is a 4-step facilitated process that allows artists to ask questions and control the feedback, resulting in thoughtful, constructive critiques and discussion.
W-I-P Crème, an annual showcase of the best of the prior year's W-I-P work, began about five years ago as the brainchild of Shimi and then co-coordinator Georgina Morgan. This year, in the absence of Dance Umbrella's adjudicated San Antonio Dances Festival, which is slated to return next year, W-I-P Crème is the showcase event of Dance Month
Coordiators Shimi and Kristina Kuest Mistry act as curators for the show. "We try to be as eclectic as possible," says Shimi, "going for a mix of small and large-scale work, contemporary and traditional, Western and non; based on what we've seen through the year."
Featured performers this year (complete with curatorial statements by Shimi) are:
Karavan Middle Eastern Dance Company: "Karen Barbee-Adkisson always brings an ambitious new piece to work through during the season. Karavan is a crowd favorite and provides technical flair as well as a lively spin on bellydance."
Guadalupe Dance Company: "Guadalupe always does something new. Over the last few years Belinda Menchaca has been bringing regional dances from Mexico that most folks will not have seen before."
Jessica Baylan: "We've been working with the St. Mary's Hall dance program and in January we did a training session in the Critical Reponse Process there, so we're delighted to have a young choreographer show her work here."
Jose Chapa: "W-I-P is also about performance art, so to 'represent', we have a local visual artist who has branched out into performance. This piece uses a sculptural element and some text sparingly, and it stands as a lovely and unusual counterpoint to the dance pieces."
Billy Munoz: "`Munoz is` a quirky, wonderful performer and will be performing a funny, bizarre original theatre piece."
Treehouse Dance Studio: The adult Modern Dance class will present a movement piece they've been working on ... it's great to see another aspect of modern/contemporary dance in this community, the dedicated hobbyists." •