AIR Update – March 2023

The 2022-23 Artists In Residence – Keeley Dunnam, Loren Holmes & Tempest McLendon – are in the studio this spring creating new works to share at Barnstorm Dance Fest in June. Each month leading up to the festival we’ll be checking in with the cohort to learn more about their artistic practice and creative process, the works they’ll present, and their experiences across the dance community.

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Dance artists wear a wide variety of hats in many different parts of the dance field – dancer, choreographer, arts administrator, educator, etc. Tell us more about your place and identity within the dance community.

Loren Holmes – Over the last 10 years, I have worked as a dancer, choreographer, and instructor in studios as well as organizations such as Young Audiences of Houston. I recently took a job in Arts Connect Houston that will lean more on the side of arts administration. 

Keeley Dunnam – Within the dance community, I identify as a dancer, choreographer, and dance educator. I have danced for 26 years, and have performed professionally for several companies including AMPdance, Impulse Dance Project, Company XV, Pilot Dance Project, The Fairytale Project, PDC Works, and Lonestar Circus. I started my choreography journey while receiving my Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of North Texas, where I completed my first work “Narrow is the Way”, which was performed by Impulse Dance Project in 2017. Since then I have created several other works, “Same but Different but Same”, “Interrelational Transactions,” and “Chasing the Light” that have been performed around the Houston area. I found my love for teaching while working on my Master of Fine Arts from Sam Houston State University. Since graduating in May of 2022, I have been teaching an age range from two years old to eighteen years old in several styles, including ballet, jazz, tap, and modern. I am interested in continuing to perform and choreograph as much as possible while expanding my experience and expertise as a dance educator. 

Tempest McLendon – Currently, I identify as an Arts Administrator, Dancer, Choreographer, and Artist in our community. I am the current co-chair of Houston Ballet’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access (IDEA) Committee, a member of the Advisory Leadership Alumni Group for Diversity and Inclusion with the UH Dance Department, company member of 6′ Degrees Dance, and was a past Dance Ambassador for Dance Source Houston during the Fall/Spring 2020-21 year. 

I began studying dance in 2017, in the middle of my undergraduate degree pursuit. As a then Graphic Communications major, I was already very intrigued by performance art, so I decided to enroll in a modern dance class as a way to artistically engage in self-guided physical healing to help recover from a severe chronic illness flare up. I quickly fell in love with dance. Being so openly welcomed into the dance department/dance community, feeling the joy of performing, and learning about dance gave me the choice to dive head first into dance as a major and creatively pursue as a career path became easier and easier by the day.

Tell us about the work you’re developing through the AIR program. What are you investigating? What is the work about? 

L.H. – I decided to do work that focuses on black and brown single mothers. This work is particularly important to me because I am a single mother and noticing the disparities in everything from resources to how we might be treated during pregnancy and postpartum led me to this work. Historically, many women of color were forced into single motherhood and I am using this work to also shed light on that reality and share those stories. 

K.D. – I am planning on revisiting a work I created during the spring of 2020 before the covid pandemic hit. The pandemic prevented this work from being able to be presented and performed, so it never really felt like a completed work. Looking back there are many things I would have changed about the work, so I am going to approach the dance from a different perspective. The work is about the various roles and characteristics humans have in their lives and the dualities that are involved in creating who we are. For instance, every human has both extroverted and introverted tendencies, for some people those sides are balanced and for others one is more predominant that the other. This work was inspired after I had a series of people tell me things like “Well you’re JUST a bartender” or “You’re JUST a woman, so you wouldn’t understand.” This work really is to investigate how complex we are as humans and to support the idea that we are so much more than JUST one thing. “Don’t put me in a box” is to draw an understanding that labels are limiting, and I don’t want to be limited in the roles I can play or the perspectives people have of me. 

T.M. – The work I am creating is an improvisational piece inspired by topics associated with dreams/dreaming, sleep disorders (such as sleep paralysis, sleep walking, night terrors, narcolepsy, etc.), the sleep cycle (stages 1-4), conscious vs. subconscious, brain waves, daydreaming, and the 5 senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch). I have always dreamt very vividly and my family/culture believes that the translation of these dream thoughts/feelings/events is a subconscious message that can serve as an important tool to learn from in your conscious state. My family, friends and I bond by telling each other our dreams and looking up words in a dream dictionary. It’s another way we check-in on each other’s well-being and provide emotional support. I am excited to be able to explore a personal topic that I have held close since I was a child and include the experiences, voices, movements, and sounds of others. 

How is this work or your approach to this work different from past projects? 

L.H. – A major way that this work is different is that it will also be used as part of a documentary that I have decided to work on that will follow my own life and dig deeper into the lives of other single mothers in Houston. I have never incorporated the use of film in any of my work, so I am very excited to see how it all will turn out and be received.  

K.D. – My current planned piece would be the longest working piece I have ever created. Since I started creating this dance in January of 2020, it will have had a creative process lasting three and a half years. So the evolution this project has gone through has been a new challenge for me. Usually, I come up with an idea and execute it in a pretty short amount of time with very little variance from the original plan, while this project has taken years to really bring to fruition and has had many of the components change during this time. 

T.M. – This work is not very different from my other pieces in terms of the topics I am exploring or the style(s) of dance I am working with, although my process of gathering movement inspiration for this piece has changed quite a bit for this project. In the past, I have received input from my dancers and others via paper or verbal surveys. I then created movements based on my own movement exploration, gave my dancers set choreography with a few bits of improvisational sections throughout, and implemented the survey input into lighting and costume color palettes. 

For this project, I used my first few rehearsals to delve deeper into the inspirational dream topics. I talked through topic information/facts, provided topic prompts, and asked my dancers to move through these prompts however they interpret them. I sometimes joined their movement during the prompt, but mostly observed, recorded, and took notes. After the prompt session ends, we sit in a circle and talk about our experiences/thoughts/feelings related to movement strategies during the prompt, their interaction/non-interaction with each other in the space, if personal experiences motivated their approach, and what they would or would not want to explore differently. Surprisingly each dancer approached the same prompt in a completely different way. It created a closer environment to comfortably explore these worlds and helped forge a learning/bonding experience by hearing one another’s personal and collaborative perspectives, improvisational approach, informational interpretation, and interest in the process. 

Stay tuned for more from the AIRs next month!

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