First Fridays: Thompson and Trammell Dance Company


A Charlottesville dance icon, Miki Liszt, with her company presents the First Fridays dance series to showcase small contemporary dance companies and individual choreographers. After the performance, the dancers or choreographers invite the audience to participate in a discussion about the performance. In my experience, this is one of the best parts of the evening, as the crowd is very open to modern dance and willing to share how the work(s) made them feel.

First Fridays in October was particularly wonderful as the performance featured two professors from James Madison University.  Cynthia Thompson and Kate Trammell of thompson and trammell presented two solo works with very different themes.

Cynthia started the show with neither here… (2012). There was a strong sense of melancholy within this work, very different from the typical Cynthia style I know. The work was created by Mark Anderson and Isabelle Kralj, in collaboration with Cynthia Thompson. The dance focused around several teacups, probably thirty sets of cups and saucers. As the work began, Cynthia was caressing them as if they had an identity and eventually changed her demeanor towards them and placed them in specific rows as if it were her job to align them just so. Video featuring dangling teacups was incorporated into this work providing an additional element to the music, movement, and voice. At the very end of the dance, she dropped a teacup. Within the discussion following the performance, an audience member chimed in that she wished the teacup would have broken at that moment.

Cynthia shared with the audience that this piece was inspired by going through her parents belongings and finding great personal meaning in each object.  At the same time, she had to deal with the idea that these objects are just things, and have no meaning to anyone else.

Kate followed with HAPPEN CHANCE (2008) with choreography, text and costumes by Claire Porter. This was also a very different dance from typical Kate, but was very successful. After seeing Claire perform this dance, Kate approached Claire and asked if she would set this on her during the summer when she was at the White Mountain Summer Dance Festival at Sarah Lawrence College. This dance required Kate to memorize a long speech and incorporate movement into the story. As she referred to different characters, they were given different movements, so eventually she could dance their movement and we knew who they were!

The discussion after the performance was very interesting to me. While I was focusing on the humor and talent that Kate had in delivering the monologue and remembering which move went with what, others in the audience were applying the performance to life today. One of the audience members brought up the idea that the dance spoke to how fast we move through life focusing on something only momentarily before moving onto the next thing. Think about technology: we moved so quickly – from giant computers, to desktops, to laptops, to smart phones, to tablets – always in search of the next big thing.

I invite you to join my dance company, Terra Dance Project, at the November 2 First Fridays Dance Series at McGuffey Arts Center in downtown Charlottesville.