Owen/Cox: Balancing Profundity and Fun

The critically acclaimed Owen/Cox Dance Group teams up with leading choreographer Kate Skarpetowska in fall performance at JCCC.

Kansas City’s Owen/Cox Dance Group brings to the stage an intriguing blend of classical and contemporary influences. But perhaps more importantly, the company pursues that approach while striking a balance between profundity and fun.

This fall, the critically-acclaimed company will once again appear as part of the “New Dance Partners” series at Johnson County Community College, and it’s a win-win for both. The annual program presents new works by nationally-known choreographers.

Jennifer Owen, co-founder and artistic director of Owen/Cox, described “New Dance Partners” as “a wonderful way for dance lovers in the Kansas City area toexperience a wide variety of creative, artistic output.”

As it has in the past, Owen/Cox will share Yardley Hall with KC’s highly respected Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company. Also performing in the third edition of “New Dance Partners” in late September will be the Oklahoma City Ballet.

“New Dance Partners” is inspired by “New Dance Horizons,” an annual showcase presented by Dance St. Louis in the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Emily Behrmann, general manager of the performing arts series at JCCC, said that “New Dance Partners” has “kind of the same framework as the St. Louis event in that we commission work for local dance companies.

“Part of the reason that the project appealed to me as a presenter,” she said, “was that it’s a way for us to help companies grow artistically.” Michael Uthoff, artistic and executive director of “Dance St. Louis,” has been a consultant to “New Dance Partners.”

The first edition of the dance series took place in 2013, showcasing Owens/Cox, Wylliams/Henry and the Kansas City Ballet. The three companies returned last year. But when the Kansas City Ballet was not available this time around, the net was cast wider to include the Oklahoma City Ballet.

The latest edition of “New Dance Partners” will feature work by Kate Skarpetowska (created for Owen/Cox), Gregory Dawson (for Wylliams/Henry) and Brian Enos (for Oklahoma City Ballet).

Owen said she welcomes the opportunity for her company to work with some of the most respected and imaginative choreographers on the dance scene.

“Mainly, our company performs works that I choreograph,” she said. But pairing the Owen/Cox dancers with guest choreographers “shows the company in a very different light than in a piece that I might create.” Owen praised the New York-based Skarpetowska as “very accomplished.”

Skarpetowska and Enos both had work premiered during the most recent New Dance Horizons concert in St. Louis – hers by the Big Muddy Dance Company,
and his by St. Louis Ballet. Enos has since become artistic director of the Big Muddy.

Behrmann said she expects the collaboration between Owen/Cox and Skarpetowska which was still in the early stages of development at press time to be delightful.

“I saw the work that Kate did in St. Louis,” she said. Given the nature of the choreographer’s technique and process, “the choice to match her with Owen/Cox seemed like a natural thing.”

“New Dance Partners” will be held at 8 p.m. Sept. 25 and 26 in Yardley Hall in the Carlsen Center at Johnson County Community College, 12345 College Blvd., Overland Park. Tickets cost $25; $13 for youth under 18. For more information, 913-469-4445 or jccc.edu/TheSeries.

For season schedule, visit owencoxdance.org.

Calvin Wilson

Calvin Wilson is an arts writer at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He is also host and creator of the jazz program, “Somethin’ Else,” on 107.3 FM and 96.3 HD2 in St. Louis.

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