Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Building momentum — Peninsula Artists in Motion on the move toward expansion in 3rd show
By Jenny Neyman
For the Peninsula Artists in Motion, the motion part was constantly apparent in a rehearsal for the group’s third annual performance last week in Kenai.
Even in between songs the dancers were moving — feet practicing the steps, legs stretching into poses, arms swirling and mouths keeping in coordination with each other, often at the same time.
“We were doing it on one two, but we changed it to three four.”
“And the heel goes on its own?”
“I like it better on one two.”
“It’s look, then heel.”
“You guys, I’m going to try to book it out of your way.”
“We’re all up and you guys are all down, so we’ll drop and go back up.”
And finally: “OK, I think we’re ready.”
Once the music was switched on a switch was thrown in the dancers, as well, changing them from women with a shared interest getting together to have a good time into a group that embodies the entirety of their name — artists in motion.
“To cultivate dance, man. Isn’t that what it’s all about?” said Amy Tovoli, one of the PAM dancers, about the purpose of the group.
Now in its eighth year, PAM will stage its third community performance at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Renee C. Henderson Auditorium at Kenai Central High School.
The performances encompass a variety of dance styles, including lyrical, jazz, hip-hop, African, modern and ballet. Encore Dance Studio and the Anchorage Classical Ballet Academy will be guest performers.
“We try to think about our audience and what they would really like to see. There’s everything from really powerful emotional stuff to really happy, fun, lighthearted pieces,” said Tara Slaughter, one of the co-directors of PAM.
Investigating different dance styles helps the performers stretch and grow.
“You step out of your comfort zone. If you just stick with whatever you’re comfortable with and that you’re good at you don’t get better,” Tovoli said.
PAM member Greta Danielson used herself as an example. She’s studied ballet for 10 years and had never done a style like hip-hop before joining PAM.
“I didn’t know if I liked hip-hop because I’d never done it,” she said. “You just get better at it and it’s fun.”
Slaughter and Katrina Carpenter developed PAM as an opportunity for women in the community to participate in dance. There are several dance studios and school programs for school-age dancers to be involved in, but after graduation, there aren’t many avenues for adults.
“Especially for women in the community. We’ve got long winters and not a lot to do and it really keeps them motivated in the winter,” Slaughter said.
Slaughter grew up on the central Kenai Peninsula and has been dancing here since she was 4 years old. She went off to college and got a degree in dance before moving back to the Kenai.
“It is so cool to actually be doing what I went to school for,” Slaughter said.
“It’s amazing how small the community is and still supports so many different arts.”
PAM has experienced significant growth since it was founded in 2000 and became a nonprofit organization in 2005. Last year the company doubled in size to 15, mainly from interest generated from their performance last year. Entrance into PAM is by audition.
The group rents rehearsal space from Encore Dance Studio in Kenai, but it isn’t affiliated with any one studio. Any woman from any dance background can try out.
Katie Reichert said she’s been in the dance company for years, minus a few breaks to have kids. Her children are actually one of the reasons she’s in PAM.
“My daughter is taking dance lessons at Encore and she liked seeing me there on the stage doing it too. If she has a love for it and sees me as her mommy doing it, I hope she’ll want to do it too,” Reichert said.
Tovoli is an instructor with Urban Dance in Kenai. PAM is her opportunity to be a dancer, instead of having to be in charge all the time.
“I’m always the teacher, so it’s really nice to dance with women and not be the teacher,” she said.
She doesn’t always get that break, however. Tovoli contributes to the choreography of the PAM company, as do Slaughter, Carpenter, Chris Morin and Rick Langley.
“There’s a lot of different personalities. We’re lucky enough to have several of the members in the company work well together and seem able to collaborate together on pieces,” Slaughter said.
Fifteen women in a smallish dance studio doing a collaborative activity with their own opinions on how it would look best can be hectic at times. But everyone realizes they have their job to do and is dedicated to creating a quality final product.
“It’s a little crazy and a little chatty at times, but for the most part I think we get along pretty well. There’s nothing out of the ordinary when dealing with 15 women,” Slaughter said.
The company’s progress will be evident in their performance this weekend.
“It’s our best show yet, that’s for sure. I know that much,” Slaughter said.
PAM also consists of Brianna Bolton, Nicole Egholm, Debra Kimbrell, Anastasia Massera, Nadya Matiya, Annie Mese, Laura Mocza, Cara Parker, Heather Schloman and Jessica Sherman.
Tickets for the PAM concert are $10 general admission, $8 for students and seniors and free for kids 5 and under. Tickets are available at Charlotte’s and Encore Dance Academy in Kenai, River City Books in Soldotna, and at the door.