NobleMotion Dance Catapults Into Its Ninth Season With Collaborative Innovation

Photo by Lynn Lane

By Lawrence Elizabeth Knox

Andy and Dionne Noble, co-artistic directors of NobleMotion Dance, are on a constant quest for two things – to challenge and to be challenged. In today’s fast-paced, technology-focused world, the husband-and-wife team, like everyone else, faces an ongoing battle for people’s attention, an obstacle they have overcome with fearless innovation.   

At the end of the month, their troupe of 11 dancers, give or take a few guests artists, will kick off its ninth season at the Hobby Center with “Catapult: Dance meets Design.” The production will feature five choreographic works among deconstructed tunnels, flipping doors, a 12-foot spinning propeller and more, and a short solo performed by founding member Jesus Acosta.

Photo by Lynn Lane

The custom-built interactive sets, conceptualized by the Nobles, were designed and brought to life by Huntsville native Jared Doster, who was a founding member of NobleMotion Dance before touring internationally with Pilobolus. The Nobles met Doster after joining the faculty at Sam Houston State University, where he was pursuing a dual degree in industrial design and dance. This creation marks his first collaboration with the company in which audiences will have the opportunity to see his work in both respects.

“What’s been really fun about working with him is we can build these structures, and he can look at it from both a dancer’s perspective and from a structural perspective as well,” Andy Noble said.

All five works are interlaced by this industrial landscape, but each piece and its individualized sets have a specific, symbolic purpose. For example, “Ziggurat” was inspired by the feats of early civilizations and involves the construction of a moving stone mill structure, which at times takes on the appearance of a Ferris wheel, a catapult, and even part of a ship. The dancers affectionately refer to it as the “deathcopter,” Andy Noble said, laughing.

“Portal” dips into nostalgia, as doorways become time machines, transporting the dancers back to pivotal life moments. Dionne Noble’s “Aorta,” on the other hand, uses tunnels to represent the complexities within a relationship. In other works, ramps reflect the chaos of battle, and a glass chamber with hanging plastic creates an abstract vision of chemotherapy treatments.

This production, especially its design element, is made possible in part by a prestigious Artistic Innovations grant of $15,000 from the Mid-America Arts Alliance in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.

Photo by Lynn Lane

With this award, NobleMotion Dance, which has been featured on the television drama “American Crime,” continues to put dance in Houston on the map. “It’s a regional grant, so it’s beyond Texas, way beyond Houston,” Dionne Noble said. “They don’t always give it to dance, and they don’t always give them to Texas artists.” The honor is certainly a testament to the years of dedication they’ve poured into the art form.

The Nobles started working together in 1995 as juniors at the University of South Florida when they were paired up to create a duet in a choreography class. “Somehow, something clicked,” Andy Noble said, “and we realized we created really well together and challenged each other in a really fun way, and that was the beginning of our friendship.”

Prior to college, the couple had very different dance backgrounds. He was a self-taught hip-hop dancer, who received no formal training until the age of 19, while she experienced a more traditional route, taking ballet classes as a young girl.

Funny enough, neither of them anticipated a career in dance, but after graduating, they both performed with professional companies, including Repertory Dance Theatre in Salt Lake City and the Demetrius Klein Dance Company in Miami. Eventually, they became teachers, a career path that brought them to Houston. Andy Noble continued his work as a choreographer as well, while his wife facilitated by providing feedback and assisting with production. Then, “she sort of got the bug too,” Noble said, “and it became less me and more us.”

“Us” took on an even greater meaning when they established NobleMotion Dance in 2009. “It’s never just Andy and I,” Dionne Noble said. “We really do find ways to collaborate with other minds, other people who are creative, other people that will push us.”

Other artists contributing to this show include lighting designers Bryan Ealey and David Deveau, projection designer Jonathan Kinsey, and composer David Ikard.

“When the audience comes, whether or not they love the work, there’s a world created, and it’s transformative in some way,” Andy Noble said. “We do a wide range of work. You never fully know what you are going to get when you come to our shows, other than I think you’re going to get some element of spectacle and some heart and some visual…” he hesitated.

“Interest,” Dionne Noble said, quick to finish his sentence.

“Catapult: Dance meets Design” runs Aug. 25-26 at the Hobby Center’s Zilkha Hall. To learn more about the performance and to purchase tickets, visit thehobbycenter.org. Tickets are available for $20-35.

 

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