How modern do you like your dance?

by Anya Jaremko-Greenwold

20 Moons is one of the few dance companies in Durango. But they don’t perform straight contemporary dance, as you might assume – it’s a new amalgamation they’ve dubbed “dance-theater.” In addition to using their bodies as instruments of expression with quintessential dance movements, the gals of 20 Moons use text, spoken word, imagery and storytelling. The company currently has six dancers and four musicians on staff. The musicians create original music for each show with violin, bass, keyboard, drums or soundscapes created on a computer.

Co-artistic directors Jessica Perino and Anne Bartlett both grew up in Durango; they’ve come and gone, lived lives outside the town and gravitated back. “All of us have experience in the international dance world, so it’s really exciting to bring new ideas and ways of creating back here to share,” said Perino.

The upcoming March showcase is titled “Human Nature Machine.” For every performance, 20 Moons settles on one “question” to investigate. “It’s all about our contemplations in movement and sound,” said Bartlett. “Human” will be an examination of how humans, nature, and machines overlap – are they one entity, or separate? Sometimes the dances have story arcs or narratives, although this one will be more philosophical. “We use not only technical dance training and vocabulary to explore these questions, but we also bring in theatrical devices that might be used in a more traditional theater setting,” said Perino. Instead of a choreographer teaching the dancers a routine, the whole thing is process-driven and improvisational.

Not everyone likes or understands dance, and Perino and Bartlett realize their premise might appear abstract to some. That’s OK with them. “How do you approach watching this?” asked Bartlett. “Should you be looking for specific meanings? Your experience will absolutely be different from anyone else’s. Let it happen. If an insight comes, that’s great – but it’s not necessary to understand or follow the storyline.” They want to evoke physical responses in audience members, allowing people to make connections between things they hadn’t previously.

The company’s musicians are male, while all of the dancers are female; although that’s not an intentional choice. 20 Moons is more than open to a man stepping in, interested in how that might change their process. The problem is, there aren’t many male dancers in Durango.

Their long-term hopes point to touring and dancing both in and outside Durango. They aim to provide a bigger educational focus; teaching classes, workshops and reaching out to kids. Recently, the company was invited into nonprofit umbrella Imaginary Friends (which includes Merely Players and the Durango Performing Arts Co.). 20 Moons’ next big project will happen at the end of this year, a collaboration with Merely Players. “We’ll probably do a dance-theater production of ‘A Christmas Carol,’” said Bartlett.

20 Moons offers something unique to our community. While there are a number of theater companies here, these women do something different, a dance-theater hybrid with more physicality and ambiguity. When you utter the word “dance,” people have a preconceived notion of what that entails; burlesque, ballet, Irish step, jazz. “We don’t fit any of those molds,” said Bartlett, “but we have incorporated pieces of all of them.”


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