Last Call: Dancing People Company to Perform Final “Call Back the Sun”
When Robin Stiehm, the founder of Dancing People Company, says that this will be the last year of “Call Back the Sun,” there is no sadness in her voice. There’s no need: the company’s annual Solstice-celebrating event on December 19 and 20 will be entering its tenth and final year on a high note.
An eclectic team of community collaborators will join Dancing People’s six-member company as they perform in the round at the Historic Ashland Armory, transforming the usual stage-audience gap and aiming “to feel like there is witnessing, like the audience encloses us,” explains Stiehm.
Each performance concludes by gracefully dissolving into a dance for performers and audience members alike. Though the accompanying post-show music has, in previous years, been pre-recorded, this year’s audience will be treated to live music from Eight Dollar Mountain and Lovebite following Saturday and Sunday’s performances, respectively.
Stiehm describes the work Dancing People does as something that “looks like contact improvisation but it’s not actually improvised,” with a foundation in “momentum-based partnering.” What does this mean? Audiences will be treated to a carefully crafted presentation of modern dance that encompasses the freedom of natural human expression.
Not only does DPC’s approach accommodate a variety of partnering opportunities within the company, it opens up possibilities for performances such as “Call Back the Sun,” which collaborates with community members and can involve those with little to no dance experience. Though DPC pride themselves on their craft, they also value the incorporation of natural movement into what they do. “An untrained body is beautiful in its own right,” adds Stiehm.
“Call Back the Sun” is Dancing People’s seasonal ritual, something found in the practice and performance of dance in many ways. “Often times the word ‘ritual’ can be limited to a spiritual thing, but there is tons of ritual in dance,” says Stiehm. From warm-up and rehearsal, to pre-performance customs, to the final work of dance before an audience, dance is both created and performed as a ritualistic process and surely has the power of ritual at the heart of it: “it’s strange; you get on stage in front of people and move your body. But it’s also powerful.”
How does a highly collaborative and celebratory ritual event like this come together? “This is a benevolent dictatorship,” Stiehm is fond of saying to her company. Though she is responsible for the cohesive whole, Stiehm relies on her dancers and community collaborators to bring their creativity to the floor, too. Incorporating artists from disciplines beyond modern dance enriches the creation of each performance: sometimes this means revisiting successful partnerships, sometimes bringing in new blood. Either way, that Dancing People remains open to possibility and creation within their own framework means a final product that is truly an honor to witness.
Stiehm is grateful for her rich collaborative history: “I’ve been really fortunate in my career that things appear when I need them.”
So as ten years of ritual come to a close, ten years of welcoming back the sun in the deep center of winter, ten years of movement and sound in joyful collaboration, the future holds only possibility: “who knows what will happen next year” offers Stiehm with a calm openness in her voice, ready for whatever yet-unformed masterpiece lies ahead.
Call Back the Sun, Winter Solstice Celebration
Dancing People Company
7:30 pm, Sat., Dec. 19
2 and 7:30 pm, Sun., Dec. 20
Ashland Armory, 208 Oak Street, Ashland
$15, advance. $20, door. $10, kids 12 and under.