You might call RVA dance collective a people’s dance company. They build concerts with an eye toward making modern dance truly accessible to anyone. To enjoy their work, says co-founder and choreographer Jess Burgess, “You don’t have to be a modern dance aficionado.” You just have to walk in the door.
Co-founded by Burgess and choreographer Danica Kalemdaroglu in 2009, RVA dance collective thrives on collaboration. As well as presenting their own work, the two leaders make a point of presenting the work of another company member, whom they choose in rotation each year. “We give them dancers and give them space so that they can realize their vision, and then put it on stage for them as well,” says Burgess. This year, RVA dancer Casey Royer will contribute a new trio to the concert.
Other areas of collaboration include sharing the stage, this go-round, with a salsa-inspired group called Latin Vintage, and providing a performance opportunity for students from the Mechanicsville studio, The Dance Company, where rva is a resident company. Burgess has set a new work, titled “Stomp,” on the studio’s advanced performing company.The idea, says Burgess, is to give high school age students a taste of professional dance experience as they begin to decide whether to focus on dance as a profession. “We offer them the opportunity, to give them that extra experience,” says Burgess, with fantastic results from the young dancers. “They’re wonderful. Technically, they blow me out of the water,” she laughs.
Not only collaboration, but comedy is an RVA trademark. Burgess notes that satirical works regularly add some comic sparkle to their programs. “We definitely each year try to include something that will relax the audience, keep them laughing, make them have fun.” This year, a trio by company member Henry Hill features a ridiculous love triangle between Hill, Burgess, and Kalemdaroglu. “The three of us are real big hams,” Burgess chuckles in anticipation.
But the show goes deeper, too. “We want to show to the audience is that RVA dance collective is fun, but we can produce thought-provoking work as well,” says Burgess. In addition to the work she set on students, Burgess will present “my house, myself,” a group work she made in response to the housing crisis in the U.S. “It’s the first time I’ve explored using large objects on stage,” she says. “We’ve got two big boxes on stage that the dancers interact with and dance with.” The piece, she says, a statement, is “about how, at the end of the day, your house is more of your family than a physical building.”RVA dance collective presents “rva. dance. local" on May 10 & 11, at 8:00 pm at the Grace Street Theatre, 934 W. Grace St.Tickets $16/$11 students.804-828-2020 or www.showclix.com