Being yourself, the power of listening, the myth of Apollo and Daphne — these are a few ideas that the young artists of ImmerseATL will explore in an evening of new choreography, Monday, April 15, at Emory University’s Performing Arts Studio. The dancers will also perform ImmerseATL founder Sarah Hillmer’s evolving work, frame shift.
The concert, ImmerseATL Creates, is the first of its kind for ImmerseATL, the organization Hillmer founded about two years ago to help young dancers bridge the gap between dance training programs — in colleges and elsewhere — and the professional contemporary dance world. Of the six artists in the mentoring program, some are in undergraduate college dance programs while others have bachelors degrees in dance. One artist, Mary-Evelyn Hunt, has a masters degree in choreography.
Unlike many dance programs geared to train dancers primarily as technicians, ImmerseATL looks to develop the whole person as a well-rounded artist. Hillmer and faculty mentors George Staib and Sean Nguyen-Hilton advocate not only mastery of the body as an instrument, but also cultivating each dancer’s own creative spirit as a driving force for their dance movement. Hillmer introduced ImmerseATL Creates to also challenge the artists to step into leadership roles as they discover and clarify their choreographic voices.
The evening’s program features 13 works set to music ranging from a choral work by Caroline Shaw to a melancholy jazz duet (played by John Coltrane and Duke Ellington) to Justin Lockey’s orchestral version of “Give up the Ghost,” a melodious nod to Steve Reich.
In March, the six young artists performed Hillmer’s frame shift at the Westside Cultural Arts Center as part of Off the EDGE dance festival. The dancers ventured into the stage space with tentative receptiveness, then dove into fresh configurations with equal measures of courage and vulnerability. As the feeling changed from mutual support to bursts of inspiration, the sense of trust among them was palpable. It all suggested that these artists, while young, have strong and authentic voices — and this is just the beginning.