There’s a good reason why those gathered on the stage at Kenai Central High School on Wednesday refer to what they do as art, and not just dance.
It’s about a connection, they said.
Like a painter uses different colors to affect a mood on the viewer, dancers want to make the audience feel, said Megan Smith.
“I think a lot of people can dance, but we try to connect with different parts of our personalities and personas and portray how we are feeling to the audience and make the audience feel what we are feeling, and I think if you are a true artist you can make that connection,” said Smith, who has been dancing with Peninsula Artists in Motion dance company for one year.
After a year of weekly rehearsals, 15 dancers comprising the non-profit dance company hope to effect such a connection starting tonight and continuing Saturday for their seventh annual concert at the KCHS auditorium. The concert starts at 7 p.m. both days. Tickets at the door are $15 for adults, $10 for students, and seniors or children 5 and under are free. Guest artists include Encore Dance Academy, Anchorage Ballet, Momentum Dance Collective, Pulse Dance Company and Kammi O.
Smith, who has been dancing since she was a young girl, said she thinks the audience will be surprised by the diverse choreography featured during the concert.
“We have more than half a dozen different choreographers in our group, so everyone gets to bring something different and the variety that we get to show everyone,” she said.
Katrina Carpenter, PAM co-artistic director, said this year’s performance features a number of surprises including a Parisian-styled fashion show featuring clothes she made by hand, a few “acrobatics” and a number of styles from modern to tap and hip-hop.
“I think they are going to be surprised with the level of commitment that these ladies have and how much talent we have in our community that people don’t know about,” Carpenter said.
Carpenter said each of the visiting dance companies will perform two pieces and PAM will fill in the rest of the concert. Pieces performed by PAM are a mix of those created by the artistic directors and the dancers’ ideas and choreography.
“We don’t want PAM to be an, ‘I’m the boss,’ kind of a thing,” she said. “We want it to be a collective and be able to stay fresh and new.”
Early this year, the troupe went through some growing pains, Carpenter said, as the group had a large turnover. Learning to dance with others, because of the trust and closeness required, is sometimes a challenge, she said.
“This is probably the newest company we have had as far as numbers,” she said. “We had a big turnover and so we have been getting used to it, but I think it is our best show yet.”
Fourth-year PAM dancer Julie Tallent said she feels the group has come together well.
“It is kind of a high turnover, but we also have a core of us that have been there that we’ve become like family and new people come in and that just adds to everything,” she said.
Smith, being one of those new members, said she has noticed the deep connection among the PAM dancers.
“The social connection is almost more important than the artistic component because most of us are wives and mothers and teachers and students, and we can all kind of leave that at the door, come together and do these beautiful pieces and exercise our bodies and get to relax and be dancers for a while,” she said. “We get to reconnect with ourselves as individuals, not just as mothers and wives that we are to the rest of the world and for me, it is my outlet.”
Amy Tovoli, president of the PAM board and a former dancer, said she hopes the link to dance goes beyond connecting the audience to the piece’s intended feeling and more toward a motivation, of sorts.
“I tell the girls that I want them to connect with somebody because I want that somebody to be up there next year. Whether it is their daughter, their granddaughter or their wife, I want them to want to be up there and ... come to auditions in January because its fun and it keeps you youthful,” she said.
As the house lights dimmed, the music began and the dancers took their place on stage for practice, Tovoli paused and smiled when asked what goes through a dancer’s mind in preparation for a big concert.
“It’s a vast array of emotions,” she said. “It is literally a potpourri of emotion and feelings that go through them anywhere from excitement, anticipation, a little nervous energy and also a little bit of calm and readiness because they have prepared for so long. This is where they let their hard work and energy shine.”
Tallent agreed, adding she’s done a lot of “mental dancing.”
“I haven’t slept in the last few days because I am dancing in my head every night and counting and lots of nerves and marking it in your head to remember it for the show,” she said.
Brian Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.