Louisville Dance Series at the Belvedere | Photo by Chris Kasari

The dance community in Louisville will see another player take the stage this weekend, Jan. 7-8, when the Louisville Dance Series presents its first show. Spearheaded by Katie Kasari, the group takes the collective approach further than other local groups have.

Instead of a collective of dancers, this is a collective of companies. Audience members will see work from Kasari, Keen Dance Theatre, Moving Collective, Samovar Dance Company, Suspend Performing Arts and Vandivier Ford Dance Company.

Katie Kasari | Photo by Chris Kasari

Insider caught up with Kasari and her collaborator Nicolette Spears to chat about what brought them to Louisville, what they hope to achieve as a collective, and how they develop their own choreography.

Kasari came to Louisville when she and her Louisville native husband Chris Kasari decided they wanted a change after almost a decade living in Philadelphia. Kasari had formed and run Vada Dance Collective in Philly, and she credits the seven years she was with that company for teaching her the business side of dance.

“That’s when I learned how to produce concerts,” she says.

After moving to Louisville, Kasari worked with other locals in the dance scene, performing with Samovar Dance, Moving Collective and now teaching modern techniques with the Louisville Dance Alliance, the educational arm of Vandivier Ford Dance Company.

Spears’ relocation to Louisville was a bit more arbitrary.

“I moved to Louisville kind of at random,” she admits. “Someone told me it was a great city.”

Well, somebody was right.

Spears met Kasari after putting flyers up around town looking to connect with other dancers, but their working relationship really started heating up in fall of 2015. Spears was performing with belly dance company Samovar, and they needed a last-minute fill-in performer.

Nicolette Spears

“They lost a performer for one of their shows, and so (Spears) threw me in as a guest artist,” recalls Kasari. “It was a modern dance/belly dance hybrid. (After that), Nicolette and I decided to collaborate on a few projects, and I started choreographing.”

Their work included an ambitious video dance project, shot during the summer of 2016. The locations will be familiar, as the dancers cavort and contract around Waterfront Park and the Belvedere. You can catch some sneak peaks on YouTube, but the full video will premiere as part of the Dance Society’s show this weekend.

Even more interesting, the video will be shown as part of a hybrid piece combining live video and projection. The new work is called “Day Chases Night.”

The verb in the title certainly hints at an active relationship between the on-camera and in-person performers, and Kasari confirms the two play off each other, but she won’t give too many more specifics. She says the title also refers to the wide variety of times of day captured in the film.

In the teaser video below, you can see some really intriguing hints of what the finished piece might look like.

Spears new choreography — a duet featuring Kasari and Spears — is called “Break and Mend.” The larger thematic concerns of “Break and Mend” are the harsh realities of gravity and age that dancers face.

“Both Katie and I (have) danced so long, our bodies aren’t quite capable of what they used to be … I’ve had lots of dance injuries. I’ve had like five surgeries,” says Spears.

In order to begin creating movement to address those ideas, Spears reached back into modern dance history.

“Martha Graham’s style is based on contraction and release, and the (Charles) Weidman method is based on fall and recovery. So it’s kind of a play on words — fall and recovery, contract and release, break and mend,” she says.

In modern dance, thematic ideas aren’t always apparent, but a choreographer with a strong grasp on the ideas behind her work can use those big ideas in the generative process of creating movement. So while you might not see it immediately, “Break and Mend” will be sharing ideas with you.

“No matter how broken you are, you can still mend yourself,” says Spears.

Louisville Dance Society | Photo by Chris Kasari

Despite working on pieces that sound pretty interesting, Spears and Kasari both are more excited about the other collaborators they’re bringing to the table.

“(I) decided to start my own dance series to show my choreography, but also to highlight other artists, like Samovar Dance Company, that people might not think of … if they usually see ballet or modern,” says Kasari.

Spears echoes the sentiment. “The thing I’m most excited about the concert is the coming together of all these different companies … to have so many under one roof is really exciting.”

The first Louisville Dance Series concert is Saturday, Jan. 7, at 7 p.m., and Sunday, Jan. 8, at 2 p.m., at the Kentucky Center’s MeX Theater. Tickets are $16 in advance and $21 at the door.

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Eli Keel
Eli Keel is “pretty much” a Louisville native. You may have seen him around town reading poetry, short stories, dancing or acting. He’s a passionate locavore, so you may have also seen him stuffing his face at one of Louisville’s amazing restaurants. When he isn’t too busy writing short stories, he blogs at amanwalksintoablog.wordpress.com.