24 February 2015 ~ 0 Comments

An Interview with Jennifer Backhaus, Founder of Backhausdance

On Friday, February 27th, Backhausdance will come bouncing on to the Schimmel stage (along with hundreds of tiny red bouncing balls) for the New York premier of Elasticity of the Almost along with a remounting of their successful Incandescent. The company will stay with us through Saturday the 28th and will even contribute to our Saturday afternoon family series with a special matinee performance of Elasticity of the Almost. I recently sat down with Jennifer Backhaus, founder and Artistic Director of Backhausdance to ask some questions about her company and the pieces being presented.

Jennifer Backhaus courtesy of Backhausdance.org

MT: What is your background in the world of dance? What inspired you to form your very own dance company? 

JB:I began dancing after I gave up a competitive gymnastics career. I had always dabbled in choreography since I was a young girl and found myself with opportunities in High School and at Chapman University to study the art form further. I continued making dances after I graduated and found success  enough to encourage me to start my own company with recent graduates from Chapman University in 2003.

MT: Backhausdance is based in Orange County, California. Do you find that your location contributes anything special to your brand of dance?

JB:Orange County has universities with strong dance programs and a strong private studio population. There is support for contemporary dance forms and Backhausdance has partnered with many of these organizations to create robust outreach and training programs. 

MT: You founded Backhausdance nearly 12 years ago. How has the company changed and evolved since then? Has your mission evolved?

JB: Our mission to create excellent art and expose and educate the community about the relevance of concert dance has remained consistent… but we keep increasing the reach we have in the community. We began the company with 6 dancers and now have between 8 and 10. Our annual performances have increased and our summer intensive programs have become very successful.

MT: Artists usually dislike labeling their work but if you had to list the best three words to describe your company’s repertory, what would they be?

JB: athletic , layered and dynamic.

MT: You have said that your dances often include, “glimpses of the human experience.” Which aspects of the human experience do you expect Schimmel audiences to take away from the two pieces you will be performing?

JB: I tend to make work dealing with our relationships with other people, understanding ourselves and navigating our surroundings. These tend to be things that most people experience in life.

MT: In what ways do the two pieces, Incandescent and Elasticity of the Almost, complement each other? Are there any obvious similarities? 

JB: They seem to be good bookends to a concert, both thematically and visually contrasting. Incandescent looks at  living in dark spaces and slowly, eventually finding your way to a light while Elasticity is about brightness and bustle, living in a quick paced and shifting world of color.

MT: Your company will be joining us for our “Family Fun” series by bringing our audiences a special performance of “Elasticity of the Almost.” What makes this such an engaging piece for younger audiences?

JB: The music is ever-changing, and quick paced. The use of balls as a metaphor creates layered meaning for adults but also works as an engaging visual element for younger audiences.

A scene from “Elasticity of the Almost” courtesy of BAckhausdance.org

MT: In the past 12 years, your company has gained a lot of notice. A few years ago you were recognized by Joyce SoHo, here in New York, as one of seven emerging dance companies in North America to watch. Where would you like to see Backhausdance in the next 10 years?

JB: I would like the opportunity to have the company work with other choreographers, continue a touring schedule and increase our local performing schedule. Making more work with a variety of collaborators would be very rewarding.

MT: If there was one field outside of the dance world that you could be happy working in, what would it be?

JB: I can’t imagine doing anything else- perhaps working for another arts organization- or non profit. Supporting other artists or creating arts experiences for the public would be fantastic.

Backhausdance: Incandescent and Elasticity of the Almost; Friday and Saturday, February 27th and 28th at 7:30pm; Special Matinee “Family Fun” performance of Elasticity of the Almost on Saturday, February 28th at 2pm; Ticket Prices $49 | $39 | $29; Schimmel Center at Pace University; 3 Spruce St, New York, NY 10038; schimmel.pace.edu


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