Dance Preview: New Dialect premieres new works at Oz Nashville

newdialectOz Nashville always presents explosively original programming, so naturally it calls its Thursday night performance series TNT (Thursday Night Things). This week’s adventurous program features the Oz debut of New Dialect, Nashville’s new contemporary dance collective.

New Dialect founder and dancer Banning Bouldin and her troupe will present a multi-media, multicultural program consisting of original dance, film, visual art and music presented by an international lineup of artists from Tennessee, Israel, Romania and Russia. The performance, called, appropriately enough, “Multilingual,” starts at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 21 (doors at Oz open at 5:30 p.m.). Admission to this exploration of energy and beauty is just $5.

A Nashville native, Bouldin got her start studying classical dance with Nashville Ballet. She caught the contemporary dance bug in high school after attending a dance program at New York City’s prestigious Juilliard School. The experience convinced her to make contemporary dance her life. So at 17, she left Nashville, seemingly for good, to attend Juilliard full time, studying with the noted dance pedagogue Benjamin Harkarvy.

Harkarvy considered dance to be an international language with many dialects. His approach had a profound influence on Bouldin. “People often misconstrue contemporary dance as being just one style,” says Bouldin. “Contemporary dance actually has hundreds of different movement styles, so you can’t easily pigeonhole it.”

After graduating from Juilliard in 2002, Bouldin spent the rest of the decade dancing with some of the world’s most notable groups, including Hubbard Street 2 and Aszure Barton and Artists. She finally returned to Nashville in 2010 and immediately sensed a cultural shift. “Things were different,” she says. “There seemed to be a real interest in contemporary art.”

Those changes prompted Bouldin to found New Dialect in 2013. The group’s name reflected Harkarvy’s conviction that dance is a language. The title of this Thursday’s program reinforces the idea that contemporary dance is a polyglot art form.

The program will open with Fight/Flight, a new dance that Bouldin created after viewing photographs by the artist Emily Clayton at Zeitgeist Gallery. In this exhibit, called “Coupling,” Clayton took pictures of herself interacting with her own paintings. There were also photos of Clayton tangled in textiles, looking as if she were struggling to get free.

“When making the work I was thinking a lot about relationships, both physical and psychological,” Clayton wrote in a recent email. Bouldin immediately understood the implicit message. “The photos looked like modern dance to me,” says Bouldin. “It got me thinking about different kinds of supportive relationships in dance.”

Bouldin responded with Fight/Flight, a five-movement, 25-minute-long work for nine dancers that explores human relationships in their seemingly infinite variety. Some of Clayton’s photographs will also be on display, along with ink drawings by Angela Markeen Naglieri that were inspired by Bouldin’s Fight/Flight.

Thursday’s program will also include a short film called Phase 1, which documents the creative processes of Israeli choreographer Idan Sharabi. The evening-length show will also feature a new duet created by Bouldin and Romanian dancer Ana-Maria Lucaciu and featuring the live, original music of Russian violinist and composer Lev “Ljova” Zhurbin.

Here’s a preview of what you’ll see on Thursday in the Land of Oz.

If You Go

New Dialect presents an evening of contemporary dance at Oz Nashville, 6172 Cockrill Bend Cir. Doors open Thursday, Aug. 21 at 5:30 p.m. and the performance starts at 7 p.m. Admission is $5.

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About John Pitcher

John Pitcher is the chief classical music, jazz and dance critic as well as co-founder of ArtsNash. He has been a classical music critic for the Washington Post, the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, National Public Radio’s Performance Today (NPR), and the Nashville Scene. His writings about music and the arts have also appeared in Symphony Magazine, American Record Guide and Stagebill Magazine, among other publications. Pitcher earned his master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he studied arts writing with Judith Crist and Phyllis Garland. His work has received the New York State Associated Press award for outstanding classical music criticism.