by Mandee K. Hammerstein
“Looking at life from a different angle through dance, that infuses all things” is the theme, as stated when talking with Founder and Director Linda Erickson of Europium Dance Theater, regarding the company’s upcoming show “Spanish, Very Spanish,” running January 25th and 26th at Hopewell Theater. More specifically, Erickson says the answer is simple, “It’s ultimately a celebration of the Spanish Culture, that amplifies the beautiful and exciting music that spans over Latin America and Spain.” The set, as described, is minimal in keeping with Erickson’s esthetic for what is planned on stage. As Erickson puts it, there only needs to be a little help from lighting and props, as the emphasis is placed on the most critical elements, the emotion, and movement that carefully coincides with the curated music. Erickson also points out that the performance is “costume heavy,” – stating that beautiful costumes instinctually make you dance even better.
What makes this dance production uniquely different, per Erickson, is that as the director, she does not follow the usual theatrical formula. The show is driven by not only her emotions but those of the 16 performers. Together, they bring what they are feeling and synchronize those feelings instinctually throughout numerous rehearsals. As a close-knit group, they explore a theme, take it inside out, upside down and reveal whatever it is in-between. “My Europium dancers are deeply creative and have professional, theatrical backgrounds; they contribute incredible ideas I couldn’t possibly come up with myself. Our work is truly a collaboration and, of course, an artistic expression process that always needs exploration. These dancers give their all and are fearless” – stated Erickson.
Before her life-long study of professional dance, Erickson first experienced the art of Flamenco at the very early age of five, describing that in a beautifully-eerie way, Flamenco had then haunted her all her life. Much later and to her surprise, it was discovered that her ancestors originated from Spain, where Flamenco Dance was originated. Now, and since Erickson dove heavily into this traditional dance form, she can proudly say she feels it through her blood and bones and plans on bringing all her joy for this inspirational, dance gift to audiences. (More on Erickson’s bio below)
With her quiet-spoken demeanor, mixed with ever-curious energy, Erickson seems to have an attraction to the absurd; did we mention that the wise words of Frida Kahlo are also sprinkled throughout the show, with an exploration of Salsa and Tango? Even more, Erickson isn’t shy when the subject of age, stating that “she is not a spring chicken,” and thanks Flamenco Dance for not caring! In her professional opinion, the dance of Flamenco and all it offers visually and emotionally tends to look better on the more mature dancer!
Another exciting ingredient to the development of this show is the rarely seen, Tanztheater style, a form of dance in the theater that does not follow regular rules. As Erickson puts it, “it breaks down life into movement and raw emotion, and yet at the same time it’s the most simple and pure form of the art, however, not an easy thing to do.” Pina Bausch is credited as the master of Tanztheater by Erickson and playfully states Bausch is her idol. In the opinion of Erickson on her show, yes, it is an infusion of all things”, leaving the audience with a sense of the culture and the artistic energy of being alive.
“Avant-guard” is a phrase that comes to mind when talking to Erickson about Spanish, Very Spanish, and she knows the term is different to many people; she modestly admits that her show is merely a look at life from a different angle. To Erickson, Avant-guard is anything not mainstream and believes an audience needs to be willing to be uncomfortable in exchange for a provoking and emotionally fulfilling and new experience.
Being ever-conscience about the audience experience, for Erickson, it doesn’t stop with what’s planned to go on stage. She considers every detail, which first included selecting the Hopewell Theater, known for comfortable, cabaret-seating that offers a much-favored BYOB option. Upon arrival, pre-sale ticket holders are also provided a light tapas meal that’s included with their purchase. They then are enthusiastically introduced to the idea of dancing with the cast to celebrate Cuban music. All this takes place, one an hour before the show, perfectly priming patrons for the official, staged performance.
Lastly, for any of you who think of age as just a number, this show is undoubtedly for you. Erickson proudly reminds us that there’s no better time than the present to live your dream; she named her non-profit Europium Dance Theater after two things: her age and the very place where everything she loves about dance is from. Europium, discovered in Europe, is #63 on the periodic table, and coincidentally her age when the company was first conceived. Tickets are $30.00, to purchase, visit https://spanishveryspanish.bpt.me.
About Linda Erickson:
Linda Erickson received her MFA in choreography from the University of North Carolina. She has worked with members of the New York City Ballet, Hartford Ballet, Dance Galaxy and the Performing Company of Ballet Classique among others. She previously co-founded The New York Dance Theater with Frank Ohman, The Touring Company of Patricia McBride and Jean-Pierre Bonnefous, and Dance Galaxy with Judith Fugate and Mehdi Bahiri. She is the founder and artistic director of Europium Dance Theater.