Though it may not have the name recognition of longer-established Rhode Island dance troupes, Andary Dance has been getting a lot of attention throughout the state and beyond over the past few years. Founder and artistic director Nathan Andary has taken his seven-member company to perform in Chicago, Boston, New Bedford and, in January, at the Merce Cunningham Theater in New York City. Andary received RISCA’s Merit Award for choreography in 2005, and next week he’ll bring it all home for RIC’s “Rhode Island Dances” series.
Andary came here from an Appalachian childhood, college at Ohio University (where he received Nikolais, Cunningham and Butoh training), and two seasons with the Salt Creek Ballet Company in Chicago. He was searching for a lively arts community when he landed a job as assistant director of residential life at the Rhode Island School of Design. This gave him the leeway to become a member of Fusionworks Dance Company for two years and to show two pieces at the former Groundwerx space. From that springboard, he jumped off to do his own work and put together his own company, dance festival (the Frazier Festival at RISD), and consortium (Rhode Island Independent Arts Collective).
Not that Andary is possessive of the latter two. He sees them as ways to reach into the community in which he lives and to nurture opportunities to create, perform, and experience the arts. The RIC show will feature eight pieces in 90 minutes. Five by Andary (three Rhode Island premieres), and three others are by choreographers involved with the RIIAC.
I recently spoke with Andary about his passion and commitment to his art.
What prompted you to start your own company?
I wanted to tour and do my own work, to explore and investigate my own perspective on the world and how it fed into movement. I always got so excited to put movement on someone else. Then I would get to see my own voice. Andary Dance happened because I wanted to share that with other people.
How do you work with your dancers?
My art is very personal and private but there’s a lot of trust in the choreographic process. I need to honor where someone’s coming from and how they’re interpreting what I’m doing. The dancers I have I believe in to the nth degree. I value them and I call them my muses.
In what way do they inspire you?
They make me continue to ask questions: Why women are women? Why men are men? Why we’re boxed into those things? And there’s a never-ending struggle to push through boundaries.
How would you describe your choreography?
My movement is very polyrhythmic and multi-spatial at the same time. As dancers, they have to be on top of their game. They might be doing a two-against-three rhythm pattern with lots of gestures and need to be very aware of what’s going on all around them. My choreography uses the spiral: movement radiating outward, dancers radiating among themselves. I’m very reflective and intuitive and the movement is as well. I want the whole piece to be an organic, living being, performed by organic, living beings.
What about the pieces you’ll present at RIC?
Garden Play, to a Brandenburg Concerto, is baroque in juxtaposing contrasting emotional themes. Phenomena of Paragon concerns the journey from a private place to a public presentation, with all of the anticipation, uncertainty and fear. Comfort Endured is based on growing up in the foothills of Kentucky. It’s comfort that’s endured everything. It’s always been there for me, and this is in honor of that. Pulse [in which Andary performs] is a solo that explores the difficulties of decision-making between the logical and emotional sides of the brain. Flight is a placid and surreal piece about the flight patterns of seagulls.
What does dance mean to you personally?
I’ve found dance to be very spiritual, giving me more strength so that I can go out and do it again. It’s remained constant and consistent for me. It lets me be in charge. It’s the one thing that I always return to. I tell my dancers, “Give in to the dance and the dance will take care of you.”