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Dance Hall Festival continues with Project Alchemy

Bill DeYoung



Making a move: Project Alchemy. Photo by Tom Kramer.

Dancer and choreographer Alex Jones, like others in his chosen field, would like to see dance carve out a larger profile in the bay area. There is, after all, no shortage of challenging work being done here – even if there aren’t enough suitable venues (which is itself another discussion for another day).

“People say, let’s make St. Pete another New York?” Jones postulates. “But maybe the idea is that St. Pete is a St. Pete. It’s not a New York. It’s its own thing, and that’s why people are coming.”

Jones, a Bartow native whose expressive contemporary work has been in the spotlight since he was the University of South Florida Department of Dance’s breakout performer, is currently an MFA candidate at Hollins University, further studying dance.

“The hope for this Dance Hall is to make St. Pete a hub for performing arts,” Alex Jones explains, “and to make thestudio@620 a hub for dance. But also to show that in Tampa Bay, we’ve got stuff going on over here, too.”

Movement is his raison d’être; Alex Jones is not one for slowing down. He’s danced professionally at Walt Disney World for a dozen years, he teaches in St. Pete, Tampa and Lakeland, and from 2016-2018 he was Artistic Director of the outstanding, collaboration-based Tampa-based Collective Soles company.

His own group, the less-than-a-year-old Project Alchemy, has two performances this weekend (Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 28 and 29) as part of the Dance Hall Festival at thestudio@620 (Jones is the dance artist in residence there, and a principal organizer of the month-long celebration).

The show, Momentum Choreographers Showcase, features new works by six fresh young choreographers, just three of whom are actually members of the Project Alchemy troupe.

The others were hand-picked for his nonprofit’s mentorship program. These days, Jones is all about giving back to his community.

He won’t be on the floor himself this time around. “It’s actually really exciting to not perform!” Jones smiles. “I’m not creating anything for it. I’ve got some small projects here and there, but I’m not doing anything for the company until February.

“I got back from Berlin in August, and I was immediately in rehearsals at Disney. And then I had two or three weeks before the company actually started … so much happened over the summer, and over the year, that I want time to actually sit down and make sure that what I’m creating, to me has some substance before I put it out.”

The artists for Saturday and Sunday are Dakota Kuharich, Rachel Lambright, Luis Torres, Carissa Bishop, Heidi Brewer and Fernando Chonqui.

For the performances, Jones and his teammates opted to borrow a concept from USF professor of dance Andee Scott, one of his many mentors. Through her interactive dance events Our Town and Our Trail, Scott – who believes that dance as a performance art can also be public art – literally “took it to the streets.”

Project Alchemy is working with its own version of that innovative concept.

“I am drawn to black box spaces, site-specific spots, things that I can transform into something,” says Jones, who explains that his choreographers and dancers will use the alley, sidewalk, parking lot and every inch of interior of thestudio@620 building. Momentum Choreographers Showcase is a “Walkable Tour,” and the audience is very much involved. (And don’t worry, matinee attendees – the pieces are short, so you won’t be in the sun too long.)

“It’s not something that I came up with, but it’s really cool,” says Jones. “It’s a really different way of using a performance – and also for the audience to experience dance. Because now you have to move. And some of the dances are, in a way, interactive. It’s a super-exciting way to move around the space, inside and out.”

The Dance Hall Festival, which continues through Oct. 12, started with the germ of an idea by choreographer Paula Kramer and her husband, renowned dance photographer Tom Kramer. Along with Bob Devin Jones, the founder and man-behind-the-curtain at 620, they approached Jones.

“I said performative is exciting, but performative isn’t the only thing that dance does. Is there a workshop? Is there a lecture/demonstration? Are there ways to educate people on what dance is, or the ways of making dance? Because dance is sometimes confusing to people who don’t understand it.”

The schedule (which you can see here) is replete with all those things.

“It’s not theater; we’re not using words. It’s not music, where you hear a melody, or you hear a voice with text. We’re just moving out bodies. Sometimes it’s based on feelings. Sometimes it’s not based on feelings.”

Most importantly, Jones insisted the festival be a celebration of different forms of dance, “the wider range of what’s in, for me, the Tampa Bay area. ‘Cause that’s a dance community.”













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