Melissa Williams: Truckee Dance Factory: Making real connections
Truckee Dance Factory’s Inspire team recently completed its 2018-2019 competitive season, earning numerous awards at regional dance competitions. An unexpected award at almost every event went to co-owner and Director Padma Curren, who leads the Dance Factory’s contemporary and jazz classes and teams. Curren won the top choreography award for “Connections” at every competition where there was a choreography award, including at NYCDA, Encore Performing Arts, Team Dance and Move.
“Connections” is Inspire’s large group contemporary dance about stepping away from the strong pull of technology and social media to make real life connections with those around you, something that is an important focus for Curren.
“I’ve been thinking about the concept of a distracted family for the past three years,” said Curren. “More recently, cell phones have moved to the forefront ahead of TV, so that became the focus of my piece.”
More than ever before, students and families are constantly on the internet — for work, school, research, entertainment, and social networking. Curren worries that in our current society; kids don’t develop skills the same way that they did even a generation ago. She feels that dance is one escape — classes take kids away from technology for those hours that students are in the studio.
“Dance, like other sports and art, is beneficial because kids can communicate and connect in a real way with other people,” said Curren.
Curren’s message and the Inspire team’s execution of the choreography struck a chord with judges at every competition, with most of the judges commenting that the dance was a relevant, relatable presentation of an important topic.
All of the choreography for Truckee Dance Factory’s classes, performances, and competition is original. Most is created by Padma or Ryan Curren or by another instructor. Unlike the other competition dances, “Connections” was originally choreographed for an end of year class showcase in June 2018. After the showcase, Curren, co-owner and director (hip hop and breaking), encouraged Padma to develop the piece for competition. Padma had reservations about making “Connections” a competition piece. She felt that the dance was so storyline driven that it could be hard to pull off without using words, requiring acting as well as dancing ability. She talked to her Inspire team members about it, letting them know that modifying the dance for competition was a risk – it could either go really well or bomb completely. Curren said that her team was behind performing “Connections” 100% from the get-go.
Curren chose two different songs for “Connections,” “The Wheel,” by SOHN and “Attica 71,” by Olivver the Kid. She choreographed the second half of the dance first and then went back to develop the beginning. The choreography, which opens with every dancer staring unwaveringly at their cell phones as they go about life, was heavily revamped for the competition piece. The “child” trying to get the attention of the “adults” concept was added for the competition. You can view the video here: https://youtu.be/xzUcFtwbwKk
When asked how she comes up with ideas for dances, Curren says that she may have ideas for choreography in her head for some time. Once she picks the music and gets to the work of sketching out the dance, it takes about 4 hours to come up with the basic choreography for each 3-4 minute piece.
Curren, originally from Santa Cruz, has been teaching dance for eighteen years, about half of her life. She started training as a dancer in the studio at age 5 and studied dance with an emphasis on choreography in college. She’s worked as a professional dancer and has been teaching dance in Truckee since 2005. She and her husband Ryan opened Truckee Dance Factory in the Pioneer Center in 2015.
Truckee Dance Factory offers classes for age 18 months through adult, in beginning through advanced in the styles of hip hop/breaking, jazz, ballet, contemporary, and acro, as well as competitive and performance dance companies. You can catch its end of year showcases at North Tahoe High School on June 8-9. A Black Light Dance will be held on June 15 at the studio, open to all kids, benefiting students in need of scholarships. Visit truckeedancefactory.com for information.
Melissa Williams lives in Truckee.