MOTION Dance Theatre goes behind the scenes of New/Now/Next

ROOM TO ROAM: "I want MOTION to inspire creative, innovative thought of all kinds," says Nick Kepley, founder of MOTION Dance Theatre. The company holds an annual residency and production in Asheville. Photo by Parker J. Pfister

“The mission of MOTION is really to allow the choreographers a chance to experiment,” says Nick Kepley, founder and artistic director of MOTION Dance Theatre. “It’s surprising how there isn’t much opportunity in the world for that to happen. So with MOTION, I really wanted to allow choreographers a chance to take a risk and try new things.” And trying new things is exactly what this year’s residency and performance, New/Now/Next, is all about. MOTION returns to Asheville this summer with a production at Diana Wortham Theatre on Friday and Saturday, July 10 and 11.

Since Kepley introduced MOTION six years ago in New York City, the three-week-long choreographic residency has been constantly evolving and changing. In its second season, the program moved its location to Asheville (its director’s hometown), and ever since, MOTION Dance Theatre has been providing Western North Carolina with premier contemporary dance performances each summer.

“I called this season New/Now/Next for several reasons: There’s three works in the program, and three different choreographers, all of whom have won multiple awards,” says Kepley. “And it’s also new work. … It’s all about what’s next in the career field, in the dance world.” This year’s residency boasts three top-notch choreographers — Gina Patterson, James Gregg and Loni Landon. All three are accomplished artists, and Landon was recently named one of 13 choreographers to watch for 2015 by Dance Spirit magazine.

Plus, Kepley is proud to showcase the work of two women this season. “Unfortunately there’s a real shortage of female choreographers in the world,” he says. “I try to always invite at least one but I’m happy this year to have two.”

This will be the first year where Kepley himself won’t be choreographing a piece for MOTION’s performance. “It’s such a difficult job to try to run the company and also choreograph that I’ve decided this year to just focus on doing the executive tasks,” he says. Does he miss creating dances for the show? “Well, it’s nice to just focus on one thing — actually, there are still 50 things I’m focusing on — but at least they’re only in one area,” he says. “And I still teach classes in the mornings, so I’m not too deprived.”

MOTION has a reputation for being a somewhat unusual dance company, one that highlights the creative and imaginative process as much as the actual finished product. “Even though we do a final performance, it really is about the work that happens in the studio,” says Kepley. “Over the years, the mission has also become equally about the audience and revealing the process to them.”

Throughout the residency, the company holds a program called “Doors Open” from noon-1 p.m. on Fridays, where the public is invited into the studio to watch rehearsals. “If you came to all three of those, you would get to see the journey that the pieces take over the course of the residency,” Kepley says. MOTION also makes a point to document the process. Before each piece in the final show, a short video is screened that features interviews and rehearsal footage so that the audience gains a deeper understanding.

This year, Kepley adds, “There’s also going to be a surprise interactive element to the intermission that I don’t want to give away.”

On opening night Kepley will also display the work of artist and former dancer Anthe Capitan-Valais. “Last year she actually sketched my piece on her iPad during the performance,” Kepley says. “We’re going to show those pieces to the audience as they come into the lobby, and we’ll play a video explaining her own process. This year I’m trying to make the whole thing feel more like an event, like it’s an experience.”

So can Kepley offer any hints about what to expect from New/Now/Next? “The only thing I know at this point is that one of the choreographers is going to use masks in some way, because I had to order them for him,” Kepley says. “Other than that, absolutely anything could happen.”

WHAT: MOTION Dance Theatre

WHERE: Diana Wortham Theatre, dwtheatre.com

WHEN: Friday and Saturday, July 10 and 11, at 8 p.m. $35 adults/$25 seniors/$15 students/$10 children

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About Melissa Sibley
Melissa Sibley is from a tiny town near the coast of North Carolina called New Bern, and will be a senior next year at UNC Asheville. She is a Literature major with an emphasis on Creative Writing, and a Psychology minor. She plans to stay in Asheville after graduation and continue to work on her personal and public writing through internships/employment with local publications. Follow me @MissMelissaSib

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