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Breaking boundaries

Speaking with the New England Dance Project
By EMILY PARKHURST  |  March 19, 2008

New England Dance Project | 7:30 pm March 29 | City Theater, 205 Main St, Biddeford | call for tickets | 207.282.0849
Expanding the range of venues for artistic dance in southern Maine, the City Theater in Biddeford will host the second annual New England Dance Project on March 29, showcasing an eclectic selection of choreographers, dancers, and musicians.

The NEDP was developed by Sasha Randall, Heather Baur, and Jennifer Bourgeault, three talented choreographers who moved to Maine after training elsewhere. From a small but successful performance last year, the NEDP artist list has grown to include original choreography by many in local and distant dance communities, original scores by local composers, and multimedia presentations pushing the boundaries of traditional dance.

The Portland Phoenix sat down with choreographers Randall, Baur, Viki Perreault, and composer/cellist Kieran McManus.

What kinds of dance can the audience expect from the NEDP?
BAUR We have a wide range of pieces and we hope to expose people to everything. There is a difference in what people are drawn to.

PERREAULT Right. Like I do hip-hop, which has the qualities of a lyrical dance, but has fusion between the music we hear on the radio and the artistic expression in the dance. I like to draw attention to a place in the music the listener might have missed when they heard it on the radio so next time they hear it, that moment will come back to them.

RANDALL There are several modern works on the program, but then some more lyrical and traditional pieces. I think if things get too specialized, you can risk ostracizing your audience.

BAUR That’s true. The NEDP is meant as a platform for choreographers to try new things.

A number of you collaborated on some of the pieces. How did that process work for you?
RANDALL First we came up with a theme, which we decided would be the idea of stealing from ourselves, or how we sabotage our own opportunities. So we each came up with something that took away from our creativity, like for me it’s time management, and then based the choreography on each other’s inhibitions.

BAUR It was a challenge to get everything to gel and work with everyone’s personality.

RANDALL Definitely. One of the hardest parts was that one of the choreographers lives in New York City, so we won’t see her section until next week.

What was it like to work so closely with dancers to create your compositions?
I did some improv work with (Baur) in the past, but this time some of the works have been recorded and mixed in with some organic sounds like waves, which is quite different than improvising live. I try to accent what the dancers are doing without being completely free-form.

How do you feel about the current status of dance and choreography in Maine?
Maine dance has been stuck in the past. I haven’t been able to find a class that will challenge me artistically, so I have to go to California every year to find inspiration.

BAUR Audiences in general have a Sesame Street mentality now where you have to keep the stimulus high. They’re used to 20-second dance clips on television. So that’s why we’ve started using more multimedia. The audience is thirsty for strong visuals.

RANDALL Right, but we can’t bombard the Maine audiences with too many images. Modern techniques and multimedia are new to them.

BAUR Using original scores and having live musicians are a good way to take our choreography to the next level in an accessible way.

On the Web

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at

  Topics: Dance , Entertainment , Dance , Performing Arts ,  More more >
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