City in Motion: Hop, Skip, Jump, Spin…

Move down for a modern night at the Folly.

follyLegendary modern choreographer and teacher Martha Graham once said, “We look at the dance to impart the sensation of living in an affirmation of life, to energize the spectator into keener awareness of the vigor, the mystery, the humor, the variety, and the wonder of life. This is the function of the American dance.”

The women and men at City in Motion Dance Theater honor that spirit with the Modern Night at the Folly. This year marks the 10th anniversary production Feb. 9. This concert builds upon City in Motion’s mission to foster the development of high-quality contemporary dance programming and expand the dance audience in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Since 1985, City in Motion has provided opportunities for local choreographers to present their work through the Choreographers’ Showcase at the former space at 700 West Pennway and at the New Dance Series at Penn Valley Community College Theater.

The co-artistic directors are Dale Fellin, Andrea Skowronek and Stephanie Whittler. Skowronek is one of the five original founders of City in Motion.

“Not only one of the original founders, but one of the original dancers in the company,” she says. “City in Motion fulfills a special cultural niche. There’s the school of dance, the performance series and the professional dance company. We are also unique because we are in midtown so we attract a very diverse population of students, faculty and staff. The children’s dance theater has 19 children and 10 are on scholarships. We want to make dance accessible. If someone has the interest and talent, but a lack of funds, we want to help.”

With the Modern Night at the Folly, Skowronek knows the evolution from performing at the Westside Christian Church where choreographers could present a developing piece, but the desire to up the artistic quality called for a venue change as well as a new name. “The big change was having the submitted works adjudicated by a dance professional from outside the region. The interest has grown and we get choreographers calling months in advance to apply.”

Kansas Citans who love dance and seek out new and original works become the best audience for a Modern Night at the Folly, Skowronek says.

She even references Graham’s early pioneering days in modern dance, plus the eclectic nature of Alvin Ailey. “By the 1960s, modern choreographers were breaking all the rules. New rules were created and then even some of those were set aside. The rebellion was against the confines of toe shoes and now we add aerial dance, performance, hip hop and breakdancing. Modern dance is its own unique category and we are better for it. Audiences look forward to it with completely new pieces and new choreographers who are showing off the latest trends.”

There will be 10 pieces for about a two-hour show. “It’s just simply inspiring,” Skowronek says. As in the past, this performance will take place at the beautiful, historic Folly Theater in downtown Kansas City. This performance will be fully produced by City in Motion, with technical direction by John “Moose” Kimball and production direction by Crystal Robins.

Robins, who has served as production director for three years, has made that full circle in coming back to City in Motion. “I have been part of City in Motion for years. I took classes as a child and then I taught at the studio. I went to the UMKC Conservatory and majored in dance performance. I danced professionally but I found myself drawn back here.”

City in Motion strives to grow dance in the community. “The choreographers find accessibility with the Modern Night at the Folly. Many don’t often put their works on a professional stage with proper lighting. It’s an opportunity to be seen by peers and the dance community. Simply put, it broadens the dance community’s opportunities. Choreographers get to promote themselves and take their work to a bigger stage.” Robins says the first year, 25 choreographers submitted works for judging. The number jumped to 32 last year. She expects close to 40 this year. “I started getting calls in June from interested choreographers,” she says.•

Kellie Houx

Kellie Houx is a writer and photographer. A graduate of Park University, she has 20 years of experience as a journalist. As a writer, wife and mom, she values education, arts, family and togetherness.

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