by Margaret Johnson
Flashback to August 2014 and DaNCEBUMS is onstage at the Minneapolis Theater Garage performing DaNCEBUMS Presents dancebums by dance bums with special guests and Dancebums at the MN Fringe Festival. Four of us are hiding under a pink bedsheet as Karen banters with the audience. She tells them, “This is the last stop on our Everyone Buy Us More Snacks tour. We’re happy to be home and we’re ready to rock.” She pushes a hole in our egg carton sampler pad, the music begins (clap track in tow), and we dance.
Three years later and we actually are a band, preparing for a month long residency at Icehouse in Minneapolis. We realize that modern dance is not something you’d expect to see at a music venue and you may be asking, “Why?”
We hope this helps (also come to our residency!)
If Music Can Do It, Why Can’t Dance??
DaNCEBUMS have been to a lot of concerts. Struck by the passion and vitality in the way that audiences respond to their favorite band, we want to cultivate that same excitement for dance performance. Unlike dance audiences, concert goers often know the music and are outwardly enthusiastic, and physically engaged with the performance.
We want people to see us again and again. We’ve seen the same bands repeatedly and although they may play the same songs, their dynamic as players, their improvisation within a song, and the way each set has its own mood, is really compelling. We feel akin to those bands. So much of the work we do is rooted in a tangible group dynamic as we engage with the choreography in real time and have fun on stage.
We Want to Invite More People In More Ways to See Dance, and Enjoy it, On Their Own Terms
Our dances mediate between popular forms, energetic joy, and serious contemplation. Creating joyful experiences is serious business for us, so it’s important that this work occurs in a social setting. Whether it’s a party, gallery event, or bar, we want our audiences to let loose. Concert dance can be inaccessible or intimidating when presented in a traditional theater setting. By taking these dances out of the theater and into the music venue, our audiences are able to choose their level of engagement. They can show up late, chat with their friends, or grab a drink at the bar. (Not to mention, a cover charge is usually half the price of a ticket to a dance show.)
Not many people just walk up for tickets to a dance show; it’s far more likely someone would pop in at their neighborhood bar without knowing what band is playing. We see dancing in bars as a way to introduce new audiences to contemporary dance performance and encourage them to seek out more.
It’s An Adaptable Form
This is where it gets really fun. These dances are like gifts that keep on giving. By using the short “song” structure, we are able to mix and match the order of our set, adapt the performance to fit even the tiniest stage, and keep it fresh for repeated performances. We are simply performing more. Sometimes you work so hard for so long only to have one or two performances a year. We can continue to pick up shows, even while we’re working on other projects.
We’ve been pleasantly surprised with new approaches to the structure, continuity, and performativity of our dances; but maybe there are things to miss about performing in theaters... As we took space on the floor for our show at the Kitty Cat Klub, we realized we were in complete darkness - no front light in sight. Didn’t matter for long! Our audience members quickly picked up their cellphones and shined the light.
DaNCEBUMS will be in residency at Icehouse for the month of April. Join us and keep the party in your heart!