Dayton Contemporary Dance Company ushers in its 46th season Thursday, Aug. 21 at its studios with an intimate preview of choreographer/educator Kiesha Lalama’s “HeartShakes,” an exploration of love and relationships which will have its world premiere this winter.
The Pittsburgh-based Lalama, who serves as education director for the Pittsburgh CLO and is also an associate professor of dance at Point Park University, has created over 40 routines for various dance and theater companies across the country. She has created works for such troupes as Ballet Arkansas, Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, Houston Metropolitan Dance Company, and Missouri Contemporary Ballet. Her work on the National High School Musical Theater Awards was particularly showcased in the fascinating PBS series “Broadway or Bust.” She also choreographed the outstanding 2013 film “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”
In advance of her appearance, Lalama discussed her artistic vision and what she hopes the rehearsal will provide for the audience.
Q: You have stated you create movements inspired by stories involving the human condition. Has the human condition always fueled your creative spark?
A: I come from a huge Italian family and I’m also the oldest sister of three. I’ve always been surrounded by so much love in my life and have always been fascinated by stories. Exploring the human condition is very important for me. It’s all about people being real and honest. When people have the courage to share the truth it can be the most amazing thing. And in that moment, when you do share your truth, you may be actually healing the person you’re sharing it with so they feel like they’re not alone. So much of my work is about the audience. I want the audience to be able to relate to it somehow or someway. Right now is a very important time for dance. We must be able to reach our audience.
Q: Why do you feel this is a critical time for dance?
A: I feel as if dance is challenged to build new audiences. In a world where multimedia and spectacle is happening, dance is truly the one disciplined art form. When you watch dance, so many people are trying to add things to it because society craves quick information. Film doesn’t even feature lengthy monologues anymore because people don’t have the attention span for it. People in the dance community are struggling to maintain the interest and attention of the audience. For me, exploring the human condition is the best route to take to get to the truth without adding spectacle.
Q: You’ll begin rehearsing ‘HeartShakes’ this week with DCDC. What does the routine entail?
A: ‘HeartShakes’ concerns 10 different characters whose lives interest and collide in one evening and in one place. It’s told in an abstract way. It’s a really interesting piece.
Q: Two seasons ago DCDC presented your routine ‘Shed.’ You were invited back this season to conceive the full-length ‘HeartShakes.’ What makes the organization so distinctive?
A: DCDC is very grounded and full of genuinely beautiful, honest people. When I walked into the studio the first time they embraced me as if they knew me for years. I truly felt as if I were home. It’s also about leadership. (Artistic Director) Debbie Blunden-Diggs and (Executive Director) Ro Nita Hawes-Saunders lead with dedication, love and passion. They care about everyone and everything. The true essence of a company is revealed when they care about the genuine well-being of the guests and dancers they work with as well as the audience.
Q: What do you hope audiences take away from the genesis of ‘HeartShakes?”
A: I really hope they seem themselves in one of the characters. It’s very important to engage an audience. An audience has to be invited into the conversation. It’s exciting to let an audience into the process.
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