Tandem Summer Performances by NobleMotion Dance

Hot on the heels of a successful summer intensive close to home and an immersive performance workshop in Italy, NobleMotion Dance will engage faithful fans and undoubtedly some fresh faces during two back-to-back weekends of dance in August.

While epic spectacle is certainly within the NobleMotion wheelhouse, the company’s artistic directors Andy and Dionne Noble have a core-level attraction to the intimacy of smaller spaces. In a large venue, a viewer can sit at a remote and comfortable distance and take measure of a dance. “As an audience member, I like to feel the dance and breathe it in,” Andy reflects. 

That’s just the kind of experience NobleMotion intends for audiences when they attend Escape Velocity at the Glade Arts Foundation’s Cultural Center in the Woodlands Aug. 12–14, and An Intimate Act in the Matchbox 3 black box at Midtown Arts & Theater Center Houston (MATCH) Aug. 19–20.

Formerly known as The Woodlands Homefinder Center, the Glade has become the premiere venue for visual art, music and other cultural events in the picturesque Houston outpost. Given the lack of spaces dedicated to theatrical performance in its surrounding community, the Glade Arts Foundation is forging new ground by partnering with NobleMotion, the first dance company to inhabit and take full advantage of its unique gallery for performance.

Escape Velocity. Photo by Lynn Lane.

During Escape Velocity, three simultaneous performances take place in a rotation as one piece of music by composer Travis Lake plays throughout the venue. According to the Nobles, it is possible to see a different show each time a person attends because the performance path an attendee takes depends upon which dancer they are assigned to follow.

In one room of the gallery, dancers respond to video projection generated by AI (artificial intelligence). More than 2,000 images of NobleMotion dancers captured over the last 14 years by photographer Lynn Lane were fed through a machine learning system developed by AI production designer Jeremy Stewart. During a process of many many hours, the AI attempted to predict new imagery based upon what it learned from the photo data. Stopping just short of the eerily accurate replication of which the AI is capable, Stewart animated somewhat alien-looking output and edited the imagery into the three different films that will be part of the performance.

Moving to another part of the gallery, spectators will watch dancers play with entrances and exits amid two floating walls which are features of the Glade’s inner architecture. Elsewhere, dancers will interact with a climbable cube structure designed by former NobleMotion dancer and industrial artist, Jared Doster.

“Jared creates structures that enhance and evoke movement because he understands the dancer’s body,” Dionne says of Doster, who since 2016 has brought to life several interactive sculptures for NobleMotion Dance works.

Watering Hole. Photo by Lynn Lane.

Guest artists Mike Esperanza, Evelyn Toh Paoli, as well as Travis Lake have each choreographed sections of the performance. They join an already long list of collaborators who work repeatedly with the company and share their talents in an environment of mutual appreciation for what each individual contributes.

“When you’re working with people you’ve engaged with before, there’s a level of trust and understanding that makes collaboration fairly seamless,” Andy explains.

The trisected audience will converge for the final act of Escape Velocity, seated on all sides of another of Doster’s creations coined the Ziggurat. Andy describes the 12-foot structure that tilts and spins on different axises with particular excitement regarding the effect of being in close proximity to the action as dancers flip, swing and launch themselves from the Hyborian-like apparatus.

“You can feel the wind of the dancers’ bodies passing by,” Dionne notes of the experience.

Andy and Dionne are hoping that by reaching into the Woodlands community, some of its members will choose to follow NobleMotion into Houston for future performances. Fortunately, anyone contemplating doing so won’t have long to wait. NobleMotion’s second show of the summer, An Intimate Act, takes place at MATCH the following Friday and Saturday.

The only portion of choreography shared between the two productions is Ziggurat 2022. At the MATCH, the audience is once again treated to an up-close perspective. However, with the viewers seated more traditionally in the intimate black box theater, the presentation will not be in the round.

Dance and artificial intelligence also intersect during An Intimate Act. This time, in a dance-for-camera collaboration between Dionne Noble and Stewart titled My Flesh, My Fog, that blends an edited video of two dancers filmed in an all-white infinity room with the AI’s reinterpretation of that video.

An Intimate Act will also include a new work by Dionne called The Watering Hole with music by Michael Wall, as well as two excerpts from recent productions: Spider’s Den, a metaphorical study of spider and prey evoking questions about the nature of death, and The Promise, a captivating duet between LaRodney Freeman and Joseph Stevens that debuted last year in the company’s summer production We Interrupt This Program.

Photobox D. Photo by Lynn Lane.

Originally premiering in 2010, the otherworldly Photo Box D is a foundational work for NobleMotion and not to be missed when the company shares it again for the first time in many years. Its placement on the program marks 10 years since the untimely death of Jeremy Choate, the treasured Houston lighting designer and founding member of NobleMotion whose work and imagination is not just integral to the piece, but the keystone around which the dance is built.

“What we do is so ephemeral, so to bring his work back felt right,” explains Andy. “Jeremy lives in the shadows of the work for me. I can feel his presence. It’s quite palpable.”

NobleMotion Dance presents Escape Velocity at the Glade Arts Foundation’s Cultural Center in the Woodlands Aug. 12–14, and An Intimate Act in the Matchbox 3 black box at Midtown Arts & Theater Center Houston (MATCH) Aug. 19–20. To learn more and purchase tickets visit noblemotiondance.com

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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