NobleMotion Dance Joyfully Returns Live and In Person

Photo by Lynn Lane

“This year has felt more theatrical than anything I could put on stage,” says Andy Noble, co-director of NobleMotion Dance. 

His lively descriptions of We Interrupt this Program, the latest collaboration with wife and fellow co-director Dionne Sparkman Noble, belie his statement.

Straight-faced dancers spaced equidistantly in a bizarre line dance gives way to a grand opera performance and, Noble hints, that’s only the beginning. After all, what do choreographers make when everything people have been doing the last 18 months feels like theater, and what’s happening in the theater feels curiously normal?

The show, which will run for two weekends at MATCH on Aug. 13-14 and 20-21, references the professional and personal disruptions that NobleMotion has experienced over the last year-and-a-half. Designed to “keep the audience guessing,” the evening of dance theater also seems poignantly reflective of the mutual experience humans are living through in this period of pandemic and socio-political unrest.

Photo by Lynn Lane

“We tried to comment on what’s happening without telling people what to think,” Noble says.

Meanwhile, a wandering poet narrates. 

“He keeps coming and going, and brings humor and a sense of absurdity,” explains Sparkman Noble. “We see [the action] through his eyes and see how upside down, inside out, or in the wrong timing things feel sometimes.” 

For her, this character played by NobleMotion newcomer Tyler Orcutt, is what knits the work together. “We’ll get it if we can understand his journey,” she reflects.

Andy Noble confesses he often brings the crazier of the couple’s ideas to the collaborative process.

“If it looks like an eight-year-old made it,” he jokes, “that was me.”

For the pair, who have made around 100 dances together and both teach within the Sam Houston State University (SHSU) dance department, it’s almost impossible to avoid bringing work home. However, rehearsing in The Woodlands and living in Huntsville does regularly allow them about 45 minutes to process and debrief before walking across the threshold. 

Photo by Lynn Lane

“In our work, sometimes movement is created by Andy, sometimes by me,” says Sparkman Noble. “It doesn’t matter to us whose idea it was, as long as it was the right idea.”

Because the choreographers work with the dancers to adapt and mine out the movevent, she adds that the creative process seems at its best if, by the time the work reaches its final stages, they no longer recognize how the individual ideas with which she and her husband began came together.

NobleMotion was in the midst of developing a yet-unseen work when shutdowns related to Covid-19 began last year. With a resourcefulness typical of those in the dance profession, the Nobles pivoted. Relying on their backgrounds in dance film, they created a series of dances meant for a virtual platform. We All Fall Down debuted last summer for a live online audience and featured 20 dancers in 11 locations.

From fall 2020 through early 2021, the company was able to maintain a presence on the virtual stage though the Nobles were unable to work with their dancers in person. The couple were also focused on teaching through the year’s many challenges at SHSU.

Finally, in early June, the catharsis of recovered community became the grain of sand around which the Nobles began forming their show. The choreographers and their cast of mostly veteran and mature dancers reunited to rehearse for the first time in over a year.

Photo by Lynn Lane

“Everybody was vaccinated so it took that anxiety away,” Noble recalls. “It was about us coming back together, improvising, listening and physically engaging each other in this really wonderful way. There was a healing aspect to that.”

While Covid is proving it’s not done with us yet and casts its telltale shadow of uncertainty over any and all sorts of planning, the company is charged and ready to return to its regularly scheduled programming.

During an early summer rehearsal, Noble remembers watching the dancers cross the floor in movement provided by his wife and tearing up as he considered that he hadn’t seen dancers dance with that much joy in person for quite a while.

“Afterward, I told Dionne we needed to make a joy dance,” he explains. “So the first section of We Interrupt this Program we made was created to celebrate that moment.”

NobleMotion will celebrate its first live and in-person dance performance since early 2020 next weekend. Reduced-capacity performances are available. Any policy is subject to evolve in the coming days. Tickets and additional information are available at matchouston.org

About the Author

Nichelle Suzanne is a web and social media specialist for Rice University and the founder of DanceAdvantage.net. For 10 years, she has covered dance in Houston and beyond for publications such as the Dance Dish, Arts+Culture Texas, CultureMap, and the NYC Rockettes blog at Rockettes.com.

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