This winter holiday make sure to mark your calendars and attend Dancing People’s Company 7th Annual “Call Back The Sun” annual Winter Solstice Performance and Community Dance. We spoke with Robin Stiehm founder and artistic director of Dancing People Company to learn more about their upcoming show.
Robin, thanks for speaking with us today. It sounds like you have been working hard preparing for your upcoming winter performance. Can you please tell us a little bit about what you have in store for us this year?
“Call Back The Sun” is Dancing People’s annual Winter Solstice celebration, at the Historic Ashland Armory, December 21-23. Each year, DPC’s professional dancers join together with many other dancers, musicians and aerialists in the area to present a show steeped in the rituals of the year’s longest night, which is also a rich celebration of the season. When the performance is finished, DJ KennyBe starts a specially selected music mix, and the audience is invited to the dance floor, where a fun, energized dance party explodes.
Some of the talented people joining us this year, include: Catalyst Aerial Arts; HeartDance; Kelvin Underwood, Heather Hutton and David Bylsma; and Matt Grubb.
The show will occur in the historic Ashland Armory and will be performed in “in the round” can you paint a picture for us of what this will look like?
For “Call Back The Sun” we place the audience in a big circle, with some of the seating on the Armory’s small stage. We design the choreography to be seen from any angle. The “in-the-round” arrangement also helps everyone feel involved in the show – no one is more than 4 or 5 rows away from the action. And….. it makes it easy for audience members to jump up at the end and join the dance party!
This is your 7th Annual Solstice Performance. What are some of the inspirations you pull from when putting the show together?
Each year, the show is created anew. Often, information we gather about solstice rituals from different times and cultures stimulates a dance idea. Other times, dances are less culturally influenced and work from a more abstract inspiration. For instance, this year’s community dancers’ group is working to create physical representations of each season. The musicians and choreographers work together on mutually agreed upon themes and create in a true collaboration. Moving from quiet stasis at the show’s beginning, to joyous rebirth at the finale is a common thread from year to year.
That’s right, we try to make the show a true journey. It’s designed to lead the audience from the dark of winter, full cycle back to summer, and to celebrate every phase of nature and of life. The first piece could be imagined as taking place in a cave, around a fire, sharing verbal histories, with a winter storm just outside. By the final number, “Grassfire” (a collaboration with drummer Kelvin Underwood), we’ve traveled all the way to the power of summer with the vibrant colors of grass and flame.
Eventually the show transitions into an audience wide, community dance party. Can you tell us more?
The end of the show is very energizing and uplifting, so we like to give the audience space to celebrate with us, by coming out onto the dance floor and moving their own bodies. This is one of the things I like best about “Call Back The Sun” – the chance to connect with our audience in a more active way. It moves us from the realm of performance to that of celebration, for all 300 people in the Armory that night.
With the focus on this as a community dance performance, how have community members taken part in shaping this years performance?
People besides Dancing People Company perform almost half the dances in the show, with DPC members choreographing. In particular, the trapeze work and the community dancer pieces are created in a collaborative way, with Veronica DeWitt of DPC facilitating the process. Anyone from our community is welcome to participate in the show, through the community dancer section. This group starts working in the beginning of October, meeting weekly and developing an extremely cohesive partnership. This year, we have retired dancers, longtime dance students and first time dancers, all working together in the creative process. What they create is a reflection of who they are and their life experience.
What ages of dancers can we expect to see this year?
The cast represents our community, the youngest this year is 9, the oldest is 70. DPC’s dancers are professionals, but some other performers may be stepping onstage for the first time. We’re all sharing the stage and the experience, each person learning from the others.
What do you love most about being able to host this yearly event and do you see that it has enriched your life and the lives of others?
I so enjoy providing the envelope where people can create together. Building something together is one of the most rewarding things ever. Then, having the chance to share your creation with others – its awe-inspiring, really. That we do it with movement is also so important. More and more information is understood all the time about how important creative movement is to our health and happiness. I’m honored to share this opportunity with so many.
Finally, can you give us specific details around the upcoming performance times and dates?
“Call Back The Sun” will be performed at the Historic Ashland Armory,
- Friday December 21 7:30pm
- Saturday December 22 2pm and 7:30pm
- Sunday December 23 2pm.
Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under. Tickets are available at the Music Coop on Main Street in Ashland, or on DPC’s website, dancingpeople.com.
Dancing People Company
208 Oak Street, Ashland, OR 97520