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An intermezzo of sorts: Ballet Austin dancer fills down time with collaborative work

Jeanne Claire van Ryzin

Beth Terwilleger is artistically restless.

A principal dancer with Ballet Austin, nine months of the year the sinuous blonde sees her life consumed with rehearsals and performances. But during the company's typical summer break, Terwilleger's creative juices still flow. More importantly, they expand.

A couple of years ago, after casting a wide glance over Austin's creative sector, Terwilleger came to realization. "As a dancer, I'm always inspired creatively by music and by art, but why wasn't there more of a unified collaboration happening," she says. "It was frustrating."

So Terwilleger channeled her frustrations and developed Califa Arts Collaborative — a nonprofit initiative that brings together dancers, artists, musicians and designers to cooperatively create dance theater.

Califa's sophomore efforts — four new dance theatre pieces — premiere this weekend at Ballet Austin's intimate Austin Ventures Studio Theatre. To keep its work accessible, the collaborative is offering free admission.

Terwilleger called on her Ballet Austin colleagues to perform, including Michelle Thompson, Ian Bethany, James Fuller and Brittany Strickland. Terwilleger herself dances in three of the four new pieces that will be presented.

Before a recent rehearsal, Terwilleger took a break with choreographer Lisa Del Rosario, composer Catherine Davis and artist designer Alyson Fox.

Terwilleger had admired Fox's art and design work from afar but didn't know her before sending an email out of the blue. Intrigued by the offer to collaborate, Fox in turn suggested including her friend Davis, a classically trained pianist whose eclectic career has spanned playing with bands such as And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead and Spoon to writing soundtrack music for the Austin-based, internationally recognized video artists Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler.

Terwilleger already had in mind asking Del Rosario to choreograph a new work. And together the four women met just a few months ago to start their creative collaboration.

"We began by just throwing out general ideas and even just single words," said Del Rosario.

The result is "Capiz," a meditation on sea life and the ocean. Fox made flowing hula hoop "creatures." Davis took inspiration from the cinematic music of Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian to create her original score, which she will play live during the performances.

A new work choreographed by Harris called "Joy in Ruins" took its inspiration from the gypsy folk band Wino Vino but used the movement vocabulary of classical ballet. Harris pairs that style of dance and music with larger-than-life installation artworks by Cynthia Mooney.

For "Another Veil," Ballet Austin dancer Thompson takes a choreographic turn, using the music of pedal steel guitarist Bob Hoffnar and the lyrical, fluid, abstract paintings by Caroline Wright as a point of departure.

Also on the program is a new piece by choreographer Jennifer Hart, who teamed with photographer Nadine Latief.

If it's a long list of creative collaborators on one program, that suits Terwilleger just fine.

"As an artist, I grow from the ideas of other artists," she says.

jvanryzin@statesman.com; 445-3699

Califa Arts Collaborative

When: 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday

Where: Austin Ventures Studio Theatre, Ballet Austin, 501 W. Third St.

Cost: Free (donations accepted)

Info:www.califaarts.com