For choreographer Cheryl Chaddick, dance is an outlet for self-expression far more effective than words. As such, she has made it her mission to help other dancers cultivate their own voices, telling stories about their lives and more through movement.
Her modern dance company, Chaddick Dance Theater, stages the fourth annual Fall Dance Festival during the first weekend of the East Austin Studio Tour — the first time the two-day dance showcase is part of EAST. The self-guided tour through artists' studios, galleries and other creative spaces east of Interstate 35 tends to focus on visual art, rather than theater and dance, but Chaddick says she was thrilled to be accepted into the fold this year.
It's her chance to take the mission of Chaddick Dance Theater to a wider audience, and the performances Nov. 10-11 won't just feature modern dance. She has brought in multiple dancers to perform, in addition to her own troupe; three of the performances branch into swing, hip-hop and aerial dance.
The remainder of Chaddick's dance season is all about modern dance, her specialty. But introducing people to a range of genres is important to her and the main purpose of the festival.
"After growing up in dance in San Francisco and seeing things I didn't even know you could do on stage, what I wanted to do was to create a performance event featuring different genres of dance," she says. "What most people do is go to things they like, what they're comfortable with, so I thought it would be great to have a range of styles as a sort of 'buffet of dance.' You're exposed to a new style of dance that you might like and connect with."
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And in doing so, she says, you might find your own voice. She remembers the visceral reaction she felt when seeing butoh, a form of Japanese dance theater, for the first time. She was mesmerized by the intensity and the concentration of the dancers, how slow but powerful their movements were, and wants to replicate the experience of seeing something new and profound. For her, it informed her choreography and career as a teacher; for others, it could have a similar impact.
"I just felt like when I was (choreographing a piece) that someone in the audience would be saying, 'I’m going through that, too,'" she says. "Dance takes the isolation away. It doesn’t have to be what I do — it can be the swing dance or the aerial, any of it that you experience vicariously. Whatever you connect to."
Chaddick spent about 30 years in San Francisco, dancing ballet and modern professionally in several companies and forming her own, Company Chaddick, in 1985. She returned to her home state of Texas in 2007, originally to take care of her mom, but quickly realized with Austin's vibrant arts scene that maybe there was another reason to stay. Chaddick Dance Theater operates out of First Street Studio, a large and open rehearsal and performance space on East Cesar Chavez Street.
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First Street Studio isn't far from other art venues, such as Grayduck Gallery and Prizer Arts and Letters, that are located toward the southern end of EAST's boundaries. Like many places in Austin, the area has seen increases in rent, but Chaddick says she hopes to hold onto the east side studio for years to come. She worries that the artists and musicians who helped to make the city such an attractive place to live are being priced out and will leave.
Fortunately, she says, events like EAST help to remind people about artists' role in giving Austin so much "style and expression."
The Fall Dance Festival features seven sets of dancers: Dana Duren and Lily Kazanoff performing modern, Tyne Shillingford also performing modern, Jennifer Guillot taking on aerial, New Genesis providing hip-hop flair, Lisa Anne Kobdish doing what she calls "dance comedy," and Shag Hags giving a swing dance show. The Chaddick Dance Theater group, currently four men and three women, also will take the stage at First Street Studio.
You can bet that Chaddick Dance Theater's performance will resonate with the contemporary themes Chaddick aims to incorporate in each show.
"I like for my work to reflect what's going on in society today," she says. "I’ve really experienced so many rites of passage, so many moments, and sometimes want to express that to show to people that, 'Hey, this goes on in my life, too.'”