With a spectrum of subjects ranging from jealous lovers to alien invasion, there appears, at first, to be no common theme binding the issues explored in JD Project’s modern-dance extravaganza, “Elements II.” Everything is included.
Everything and everyone — which may, in fact, be the point. Julie Gillum and Dana Davis, co-founders of the innovative dance company (their initials create the name) have even included non-dancers in “Millennium,” the upcoming show’s visionary final number. Other pieces will showcase the live music of local artists, a stimulating departure from the usual recorded accompaniment to dance performances (and a tradition continued from last year’s “Elements I”).
Davis calls “Elements II” a home-produced concert, explaining: “We premiere new work, collaborate with other artists and musicians, and offer a performance that is more than a dance concert.”
The production’s subtitle says it all: “Let Go.”
“‘Let Go’ deals with various aspects of relationships,” Davis explains. And in fact, the “relationship” between “Let Go”‘s seemingly disparate subjects can be best understood by considering the connection between personal and global interactions, a kind of “letting go” in itself.
JD Project travels all over the Southeast, performing at public schools, universities and festivals. Their original combination of mime, dance and movement theater makes the troupe popular in both entertainment and educational settings, says Davis. And the vast scope of “Elements II” uses every form of modern rhythm available to get its point across.”[The dances] are movement studies,” she notes. “It goes into jazz, [even] some cheerleading stunts.”
The first segment of the show, entitled “Family,” explores family relationships. If all goes well, dancers in plaid shirts and cut-off jeans will move to the traditional mountain melodies of The Memories Band, though several members’ health problems may jeopardize their appearance:
“The Memories Band are all in their 70s, all born and raised in Asheville,” Davis explains. “They were taught their fiddles, banjos [and] pianos [by] their fathers, who were also all born and raised in Asheville.” The band committed to playing the show a long time ago, says Davis, and she hopes they’ll still be able to perform; but she concedes that “a year in their lives has made a huge difference.”
“Individuality,” a piece Davis began working on two years ago, showcases the dancer’s individual talent. Her solo, which works through the universal pain of personal relationships, was inspired by the dancers and musicians she was working with at the time, says Davis.
Mountain music diva Laura Boosinger (long a regional favorite) joins Tyler Ramsey and Friends for “Decline,” the show’s third segment (choreographed by Gillum) which explores romantic relationships. Boosinger’s live covers of lesser-known Patsy Cline songs are a wryly perfect accompaniment to the bittersweet moves of the dancers, who sway and collapse in rueful pursuit of unattainable loves.
“Millennium,” the show’s apocalyptic final number, features movements custom-tailored by the performers themselves.
For “Millennium,” JD Project issued an open call to the community, offering anyone who wanted to a chance to perform. The result was “10 very eclectic individuals,” says Davis. A few are JD Project members, others have a background in theater, and some are complete novices.
“One is a carpenter,” she says proudly. “The dancing [features] lots of improvisation, lots of ideas [about] approaching the millennium, prophecies, alien ships and what that could bring … higher evolution.”
With such an odd assortment of performers, however, it’s obvious that “Millennium” will be about more than a collective quest for cosmic meaning. The potential interpretations are infinite. “I see [the millennium] as something I want people to think more about, rather than allow other people to tell them what their future will be,” Davis states. “People should think of it in a beautiful sense — not what we’re going to lose, but look beyond and see what we will gain.”