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Annex Dance interacts with musicians, visual art

By Shradha Rao Special to The Post and Courier, Jun 1, 2017

Three dancers. Three composers. Three musicians. “Trinity,” an evening-length work staged against the backdrop of Charleston Harbor and inspired by the “sights and sounds of the Holy City,” comes by its title honestly.

Kristin Alexander, the artistic director of Annex Dance Company, recalled coming up with a phrase for one section of the dance after walking down local streets and being inspired by patterns in the gates and iron grilles.

These sorts of connections can be found throughout “Trinity,” which begins performances Friday, June 2 at City Gallery. It marks Alexander’s second collaboration with Laura Ball, the creative director of the UNED!TED concert series, and pianist in The Atlas Trio, which is providing the music for the show. The two previously worked together on “Overhaul” in 2013.

“It really is coming from a collaborative voice, from two artistic directors who work and live in the same city, being inspired by the people we cross in our lives,” said Alexander, a dance professor at the College of Charleston.

Ball said she originally wanted to be a dancer but, after being kicked out of a class at age 4, instead plays music for dancers whenever she can.

“It’s my way of dancing,” she said.

Along with her fellow Atlas Trio members — violinist Rachael Kistler and cellist Courtney Sharp — Ball sought out what she called “unique gems of the chamber music repertoire.” Among them are works derived from hymn melodies and sacred texts by Henry Cowell, Charles Ives and Samuel Barber.

Working with modern dancers as opposed to merely accompanying them, Ball said, forces her to “flex her creative muscle.”

“It never happens when it’s just us playing music by ourselves,” she said. “It creates a different stress level, like the pressure that makes metamorphic rocks, which makes something beautiful.”

Alexander and Ball worked alongside Anne Quattlebaum, program coordinator at the City Gallery, to integrate displayed Piccolo Spoleto juried art with live music and dance. That way, Ball said, neither element stuck out as a “separate entity.”

Charleston’s arts scene has a tendency to become “compartmentalized into teams” of classical musicians, visual artists and so forth, according to Ball. Her goal is to counter this phenomenon though interactions between artists and their audiences.

“Sometimes art can cure us best when it is treated as more of a universal language, but we really need to spend more time creating dialogues, not only with ourselves, but with the audiences in these teams to help them understand what our colleagues are saying,” she said.

Shradha Rao is a Goldring Arts Journalist at Syracuse University.