SEE, HEAR, FEEL: ‘Awakening’ debuts November 22 at Thalian Hall

Choreographer Alyona Amato and her Village Dance Company debut a series of stories combining dance, film and music in ‘Awakening.’ Courtesy photo

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for choreographer Alyona Amato. Her piece, “Crook,” was among almost a dozen performances featured in Dance-a-lorus at Cucalorus 25 on November 13. Amato brought her experimental piece to life with fellow dancer and filmmaker Emily Bannerman.

Accustomed to collaborating with painters, visual artists and musicians, the Russian-born dancer grew up in Siberia, where she became enamored with dance at an early age. She’s trained in contemporary, modern, contact improvisation and ballet in Moscow, Paris and Vilnius, Lithuania. Amato eventually made her way to Durham in 2011 with American Dance Festival before moving to ILM.

Amato’s choreography has been featured at many regional and out-of-state festivals, including the NC Dance Festival, Lumina Fest, Wilmington Dance Festival, Contemporary Dance Choreography Festival (Orlando) and Charlotte Dance Festival (set for 2020). She’s now gearing up for her Village Dance Company’s debut concert, “Awakening,” on November 22 at Thalian Hall. The show features contemporary dance told in 10 individual pieces, all connected by one theme: awakening. Each piece varies from 3-10 minutes for a total of 80 minutes. Some include films made in collaboration with local filmmakers, while others are straight choreography numbers.

“I love to collaborate with other artists,” Amato says. “Working with filmmakers is one of the great opportunities to explore the wide range of possibilities art can give when it comes to the point of diving deep into a topic of a piece.”

Amato goes on to share more about “Awakening” and Village Dance Company.

encore (e): Tell us more about the stories in “Awakening.”

Alyona Amato (AA): Each piece has an individual theme and storyline I tried to explore and reflect on as deeply as I was able to. All pieces are connected with topics of being in a process of awakening to certain philosophical thoughts, spiritual experiences and meanings in life. Each of them are supposed to create an awareness, and bring out feelings and emotions we bury sometimes. Some topics are very hard to think about; some give laughter and a sense of being connected with others and with yourself first.

The themes I laid my eyes on and made choreography for this concert include: political situations in a world and being overwhelmed with information; importance of women supported by other women; finding your own village; following your dreams and erasing the gap between dream and reality; recognizing your ego and being able to see yourself from another side to possibly make a change in yourself; finding self-love and self-healing through parenting your own child; how it feels being in an actual process of awakening; women being able to make a choice to be or not to be a mother; exploration of secret habits; and acceptance and joy of being weird.

e: How many performers are there? Doesn’t a number feature mothers and their kids?

AA: There are 14 dancers in the concert, including three mothers and their 7-year-old kids (two boys and one girl). The kids are going to have their debut on the stage (as will new dancers). Despite dancing in an adult piece, the kids love being a part of it.

e: How else do experience levels vary when it comes to these performers?

AA: Experience levels vary from professional dancers to first timers on the stage. My main Village Dance Company cast includes five dancers—Rachael Goolsby, Emily Bannerman, Stephanie Nadeau, McCall White and myself—who have been dancing together for several years. There are also professional dancers who joined my concert this year (Linda Larson and Emily Lawler), and the dancers who have less experience or are new to the stage—but have been taking my dance classes for a while and have my style of movements in their bodies—are Michelle Harman, Annie Hayes, Parran Spivey and Kevina Casaletto.

e: What are the film and music elements in this show, and how do they marry/merge with dance? Who else are you working with?

AA: Some of my pieces were created for Dance-a-lorus, where we have dance on the stage and film behind on a big screen projected on it. Some pieces have film all the time, some have a part of a film and some just a choreography with no film. I always use my dancers as actors for the film; I usually work in a concept of the film, then meet with filmmakers, and we brainstorm the best locations/ideas for how to make everything work in a great way. I have gotten to work with amazing local filmmakers: one is Erika Edwards (Honey Head Films), and we’ve done three films together. She is very talented and easy to work with. Also, I have films made by Andrew Sleet and Ryan Lewis.

At “Awakening,” we are going to premiere a very experimental film made out of dance photography captured from one of my pieces by Vannfuller Photographs and made by the talented Patrick Ogelvie (Flux Audio/Video).

e: Tell us more about what we’ll see (film) and hear (music)?

AA: I want to talk a little bit more about my dance film “Beyond This Moment” because I think it has a strong message I’m trying to carry through my life: to encourage people to never give up on their dreams.

The film was inspired by my students—moms who stopped dancing after they had kids. They still dreamed about it. Because of their love for dancing, they returned to the studio. Seeing them crying from the joy of being able to move their body again and create a special dance-time just for themselves was a strong inspiration.

Where is the border between a dream and reality? Sometimes there is none. Life is too short to give up on your dreams. Follow your heart and make it happen. The paints are a reflection of an art therapy for a soul.




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e: Any other projects in the works?

AA: I’m planning to have a show at a more intimate space like [Thalian’s] Black Box. The pieces I’m planning to present have vulnerable feelings and need to be seen up close for the audience to feel like they are part of the performances.

I would recommend following my social media to not miss the dates of other events we are planning: @alyonaamato and @the_village_dance_company.

Follow @encorepub on social media for a chance to win tickets this week.

Featuring the Village Dance Company
November 22, 7:30 p.m. • $25
Thalian Hall, 310 Chestnut St.

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