Outside the Box
Suchu Dance offers audiences an intimate experience with ‘Drift Battalion’
In 1998, Jennifer Wood created Suchu Dance, an award-winning, contemporary dance troupe, with a mission to create and present an unpredictable dance theater production for audiences. Eight years later, Suchu Dance continues to do just that. Armed with an imagination in perpetual overdrive and a never-ending supply of inspiration, Wood, as artistic director of Suchu Dance, continues to create and choreograph inventive work that audiences are more apt to call an experience rather than a mere dance performance.
Suchu Dance will present its latest work, “Drift Battalion,” March 16-April 1 at Barnevelder Theatre. Voted “Best Modern Dance Company” by Houston Press in 2005, Suchu Dance has a history of creating its own small-to mid-size unconventional performing spaces, and “Drift Battalion” is no exception. The audience is seated in a single row around the perimeter of the performing space, and the dancers perform inside and outside the square the audience creates. In this way, the dancers — six in “Drift Battalion” — reconstruct the audience’s perception of space and create a newly imagined space. “The arrangement for this show,” says Jennifer Wood, “is intended to be a room within a room, like nesting boxes, with the audience being among and in very close proximity to the dancers.”
In developing the choreography, Wood began thinking about places and the concept of what place is. “Places, and the concept of place, are under continual renewal,” says Wood. “Places in our cities — the spaces that we hold in our minds and that lend structure to our lives — are renewed by human actions. Places are changed by how we think about them. In this context, I set about translating these ideas into a way to work within the performance space and a way to approach the making of a dance. ‘Place’ has become translated to ‘space,’ meaning the dancers’ spatial relationship to each other, to the floor area, and to the audience.”
Not a “dance person”? Not to worry. Suchu Dance has been drawing in — and mesmerizing — audiences that range from the non-dance camp to the seasoned dance crowd since its inception. Besides placing a strong emphasis on creating new work with great frequency (i.e. no two performances are alike), Suchu Dance aspires to make the audience’s evening memorable by ensuring that it’s not just about dance. Great care is taken with other performance elements, such as the production value and overall visual design.
Know Before You Go: There’s No Right Way to Watch Dance Interested in watching a dance performance, but hesitant of what to expect — or even what you’re supposed to look at on stage? You’re not alone. According to Louie Saletan, managing director of Suchu Dance, there’s no one correct place to be looking during a dance performance. “Just like there are multiple facets to any verbal conversation, so too, there are in dance: the things being stated outright, the things being emphasized, the things being implied, the things that subconsciously slip in, the things being intentionally omitted,” he says. “There are many subtexts behind what we are communicating; some of them totally subconscious. What you get out of participating in any conversation — or watching dance — depends on who you listen to and how you listen. Depending on who you want to watch, where you want to look, you get a very different experience. As we perform, there are many personal ‘conversations’ occurring between different performers and different audience members at the same time. Pick one, and roll with it for a while.”