Jacked up on Cheap Champagne 

DROP Dance Collective-drunk in talent

What do you get when you combine the talents of renowned local choreographers and professional dancers and give them the freedom to create whatever they want? You might just get jacked up on cheap champagne.

Jacked up on Cheap Champagne is the latest offering from the DROP Dance Collective, which presents four new works at the Fulton Street Theater May 12, 13 and 14. Formed in 2002, the collective provides an opportunity for local choreographers to develop new dance works for their twice-yearly concerts. "It's rare to have this much freedom," says choreographer Matt Hope. "Usually something is imposed, whether it's the music or the mood." With DROP, the dancers are inspired by their own ideas and allowed to work from there.

"DROP doesn't stand for anything; it's a name we came up with over beers and margaritas," says artistic director Helene Peterson. "We didn't want it to be about one person. It had to be inclusive."

"Boise is the biggest city in the U.S. that is as geographically isolated as we are. If we're going to have arts and culture here, we have to make it ourselves," says choreographer Leah Clark.

The collection of artists working in DROP is always evolving. Choreographers use local professional dancers, some from companies like Ballet Idaho, to bring their ideas to life. "There is a core of local choreographers that do really good work and I'm always interested in keeping them engaged and involved in the company, while at the same time finding new people," explains Peterson.

"This is the first time all of the choreographers are also dancing in the program," says Peterson. Her piece, "The Apartment," creates an imagined world based in an apartment building. Peterson used her own past work for inspiration. "I was always doing shorter pieces that could have been set in an apartment building: 'Couch,' 'Love Letters,' 'Elevator.' That was the impetus of the framework." She uses the work of three local writers as well as "The Lobbyist," a story from the NPR program This American Life. It features a solo for Leah Clark, her first on stage performance in eight years since founding Balance Dance Company in 1997. Clark's solo is set to the radio story; it is remarkable to watch her motions unfold with the words.

Clark has created a new dance called "Suite Breath" in collaboration with guest cellist John McMahon. "I think we all create artistic tasks for ourselves to continue to grow as artists," Clark says. The collaboration was a new way of working for her. "Usually when I start a new work, I never know what I'm doing." This time, she knew exactly what music she would use. "We had a surprise talent contest during a party at my house, and John played the Bach cello suites in my living room. I knew at that moment that I wanted to use that music." McMahon plays three sections for three different casts: a solo, duet and trio. Each section echoes the movements of the others, and such repetition of the active motions provide a lovely cohesion to the performance.

"I always start with the music," says Matthew Hope of his artistic process. In this case, the Romanian folk dances of Hungarian composer Bela Bartok provide the score for his trio. Hope dances in his own work, which uses eye contact between the dancers to great effect. "The more I work on this dance, the more ideas I have about it," Hope says. "It's become a jumping-off point for me, and I'm going to keep working with it."

Hope also dances in a work created by Amy O'Brien, who has choreographed a "modern dance striptease" called "Blues Dream." Set to the music of guitarist Bill Frisell, O'Brien developed her dance around the unusual musical phrasing. The dancers are prodded into alternately unflattering and fluid movement, and achieve a sort of deadpan frenzy based on the rhythmic soundscape. O'Brien came to Boise after an impressive dance career, including a stint on Broadway, four years working with Twyla Tharp and an invitation to join Mikhail Baryshnikov's modern dance company, the White Oak Dance Project. These distinguished credentials are reflected in her undeniable talent as both a choreographer and dancer in this remarkable piece.

The variety of the dances in Jacked Up on Cheap Champagne reflect choreographers' personalities and provide an effective representation of the high-caliber talent in Boise's dance scene. DROP Dance Collective demonstrates what can be achieved when you have no boundaries or limits and are free to create: You get to move any way you want to.

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