Dance troupe brings new productions to the stage

Dance is a primal impulse, a desire for the body to move in rhythm to music. It’s instinctual. Even toddlers and chimpanzees do it.

But to arrange that base instinct into something graceful and refined is to give wings to the earthbound apes.

In other words, to dance is human; to choreograph, divine.

Peter Powlus, the embodiment of this heavenly design, will debut his new work, “Gallery,” along with two other new pieces of dance design by choreographers Morgan Hulen and Andrew Kuharsky, in “April’s Bagatelles,” Dance Augusta’s spring spectacular, on April 24 at the Imperial Theatre.

“It’s not at all like Peter,” said Dance Augusta Artistic Director Zanne Colton.

Powlus agrees that it’s a departure from his usual style: “I made a piece that’s very uncharacteristic of me that got a lot of good reviews,” he said. But he pushed himself to work outside of this comfort zone.

He’s been accused — not unfairly, he said — of working too closely in concert with the music he uses for his choreography; of nearly acting out the music, as opposed to telling his own story.

That didn’t keep him from winning choreography competitions while he was with the Augusta Ballet. And when he went to a workshop for the recipients of one such honor, the Craft of Choreography Conference with Dance America, he worked with Katherine Posin, a world-renowned director of choreography. The result was a piece that walks the line between a story ballet and an abstract ballet.

“This was intentionally ambiguous. I kind of want people to be stimulated but to make up their own story,” he said. But the framework for the story is a girl coming face-to-face with her relationships and her subconscious.

He sets the movements of the 10 dancers in the piece to the Kronos Quartet’s recording of work by Mexican composers like Silvestre Revueltas, with captivating and sometimes comical results. The recording of “Mini Skirt,” for example, which Powlus uses in “Gallery,” recall the hijinks of a ’60s European beach party.

And yet there is a passionate intensity that surrounds his choreography that fuses romantic ballet with modern dance. He drills it into his dancers’ heads during rehearsal.

“The movement will carry the intensity through,” he tells them, as they fine-tune hand and foot movements.

Powlus brings that sort of excitement to his work, always striving to do something different.

“Anything to keep it fresh and keep it interesting to me. I think that’s the key. You have to be interested in what you’re doing yourself in order to be interesting to anybody else,” he said.

Someone famous once said — and it is often repeated in the hyper-competitive ballet world — that choreographers really only have four ballets in them until they become derivative, repeating themselves but in different combinations.

It’s a comment that seems to follow Powlus through the dance studio: “I just resent that notion so much that I’m determined not to let that happen.”

‘April’s Bagatelles’
Imperial Theatre
Thursday, April 24
7 p.m.
706-722-8341
imperialtheatre.com
danceaugusta.org

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