Project21Dance to Host “Pairing of Dance & Wine
By Dianne Anderson
As a budding choreographer, local dance instructor Maura Townsend at times found herself in lock step with some of the same restrictive moves that many new artists face when starting their own company.
Back then, the big challenge was staying technically correct, and remembering to never bring politics to the dance floor.
“It’s different now than when I was a young choreographer,” Townsend said. “This is a personal experience. I felt restricted to certain aesthetics. I didn’t want to step on any political toes.”
These days, having grown through time and perspective, she sees just how the power of dance raises awareness to bring larger social and political concerns to the forefront.
In her latest piece for her company Project21Dance, Townsend sheds light on mental health with dance influences around the main character, and a problem growing in the streets that society is slow to acknowledge.
In “Echoes of Her Struggle,” the dance of a mentally ill young woman delves into the backdrop of her life. Townsend points out that she created the movement to reflect how society sees, yet refuses to see, how the so-called underclass each have their own story and struggle.
The piece begins when the main character is a child, Townsend explains. She has nice parents, and a nice family. As time goes on, she drifts off to this mental state, detached from her people.
Society, in turn, also detaches. The objective in the piece was to incorporate complex themes in the dance routine to spotlight the needs of the disenfranchised community. Through it, she captures deeper layers of stepping over the young woman’s cry for help.
“A lot of people don’t just end up on the streets, they have a history, they have family, moms, dads sisters and cousins. A lot of times we kind of step over these people,” said Townsend, who also teaches Modern Dance, and Beginning Ballet at San Bernardino Valley College.
Politically speaking, some themes can present heavy. One takeaway, she hopes, is prompting the audience toward a sense of empowerment. Everyone can do a little something to help fix the issue.
“We are immune to homelessness and mental illness. The audience sees it, I put it in their face,” she said.
By the end of the piece, she includes a call to action.
“Some of us don’t know what to do, but I know that whatever I can do will be helpful,” she said. “A lot of people don’t do anything because they don’t know what to do.”
Just as art reflects life, it is important that her dance company stay authentic to the true aesthetic, she said.
“I’m looking at creating a more organic movement based on my experience as a dancer. I’m not throwing away my training or technique, but I want it to come from a more organic place through my life experience,” she said.
Coming up, the community can expect more complexities entwined in the backstory of the dance, and not all be downbeat. Right now, the political climate has its share of negativity, but she said their performers are quite light on their feet.
They still capture the beauty of the moment.
“Even though it’s like this now, we can make it better,” Townsend said. “We have to stay encouraged. From time to time, we have to have these more uplifting pieces.”
Some of their new moves will show up at her upcoming fundraiser.
On Sunday, August 25, the community is invited for “A Pairing of Dance and Wine” fundraiser, and includes wine samplings, live performances, celebrity guests, and raffles. The event will be held at Regency West, located at 3339 W. 43rd Street in Los Angeles. Tickets are $50.
Project21Dance is a Los Angeles and Inland Empire based company, which has presented several concerts in recent years, including as a guest presenter at SBVC as part of Black History Month. They recently performed at the Black Box in the IE Dance Festival in Riverside.
Townsend is especially excited that their active advisory board, staff, and dancers, offer new exposure for the dance company. She said they are thrilled to showcase their talent at the upcoming Western Arts Alliance for even more opportunity for recognition and expansion.
“It’s beginning to take hold,” she said. “We’re excited about getting people excited about Project21Dance. Hopefully, they’ll support us as we move forward.”
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