Jacob Reed — composer, jazz drummer and music director for the Hixon Dance company — sat down with company member Victoria Alesi to talk about her role in the company and their upcoming project, A Harrowing World.
Jacob: How long have you been working with Hixon Dance and what is your role?
Victoria: I am the Rehearsal Director for Hixon Dance. I teach class to the company dancers and assist in leading rehearsals. I am also a dancer with the company and have been performing with them for two years.
Jacob: What made you decide to pursue dance? What inspires you as a dance artist?
Victoria: I didn’t realize until I was older, but dance is an essential part of who I am. I dance because it is the only way to let my brain quiet itself and let my body do the talking. Dancing is a stress reliever and the way I deal with my anxiety. Everything makes sense when I can let my body take over.
I am most confident and creative when I can infuse my love of movement with other passions such as advocacy, music or people. I feel inspired by poetry, stories and the ability to change someone’s perspective with the fleeting movement of dance.
Jacob: What do you find fulfilling about working with Hixon Dance? What are some of your favorite stage moments?
Victoria: I am always appreciative of the way Sarah Hixon leads the company through the choreographic process, focusing on individuality and the strengths of each dancer. It’s a collaborative environment. Dancers are encouraged to share, create and question. There is also a large focus on the artistic collaboration between musicians, production crew, dancers and other directors. Sarah has an affinity for music and this is evident in our productions, most of which incorporate new music and often live music performance.
Some of my favorite moments on stage are when the collaboration between the dancers and musicians comes alive and is in sync. This is challenging because we only get to rehearse with the musicians two or three times prior to the performance. Therefore, when the music and dance come together it is truly a moment to cherish.
Jacob: The company is working on a new piece, “A Harrowing World” — can you speak about the process of creating a new dance?
Victoria: When we begin working on a new dance, we spend time talking about the context of the work and how to generate movement. In this case, we are working specifically with poems by Maggie Smith, an Ohio poet. We spent time reading the poems, discussed what the poems mean to us, what words stood out and how we could envision these poems being danced. We created movement sequences that represent a phrase or a few words. We continue to explore these movements and manipulate them, until the original sequence is morphed into something new.
Jacob: What is it like to use poetry as the inspiration for dance?
Victoria: Maggie Smith’s poetry is raw, open-ended, deep and inspirational. Her words have been so enjoyable to create to. ‘Hinged, hanging, breathing, along a fold,’ these words are movement oriented and visceral. Unlike a story, poetry is not always linear.
Jacob: What do you think audiences should expect from a Hixon Dance performance? What will be special about A Harrowing World?
Victoria: Audiences can always expect a complete performance from Hixon Dance. A Harrowing World will include not only live performance of dance and music, but also visual/sculptural art. I hope that audiences leave feeling immersed, intrigued and inspired. I would recommend coming to the show twice! There will be a lot going on in a small space. The company will perform the show at both Columbus Dance Theatre and the McConnell Arts Center in April of 2020, two different stages and two different environments to see words come to life.
Jacob: What is the best thing about the Columbus art scene right now?
Victoria: I think everyone agrees that Columbus is developing, and so is its arts scene. The opportunities to perform, create and collaborate are growing and the platforms to market and share work are expanding as well. The community is strong and supportive of one another; as Hixon Dance prides itself on its collaborative nature, so does the greater network of artistic organizations.