With all the studio dance companies in hiatus or preparing for new performances in the fall, most of the dance showcases you'll find are out and about in festivals and weekend lineups. --- A lot of these groups are made up of current and former performers of major groups in town, most with art degrees in the field, displaying their talents to you at a bargain than you might find in a proper theater.
One of the more prominent groups traveling around the state is the Transfusion Hype Dance Company, a small group of performers who constantly change out their routines and costumes to ensure that no matter what showcase you witness, even if you follow them to every concert they get involved in, it will be an original. Today, I chat with two of the organizers about the troupe about their formation and performances, along with a few other topics. (All photos courtesy of THDC.)
Temria Airmet & Ashlee Vilos
Gavin: Hey, ladies. First thing, tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Ashlee: My name is Ashlee and I am a choreographer, teacher, director, joyologist and master mind creator. I'm the director of Transfusion Hype Dance Company.
Temria: My name is Temria and I am a dancer. I love the arts and I support the dreamers and creators. I am the co-director of Transfusion Hype Dance Company.
Gavin: What got each of you interested in dance, and what was it like performing as you were growing up?
Ashlee: My mother introduced me to dance because she danced, as well as did my grandmother and my great-grandmother. So that was it. It was a dream of my mom's to have a studio, so I was brought up as a studio rat and I would just take any class I could. Growing up performing was really great, although it was kind of competitive and I wanted a more creative outlook.
Temria: My mom put me into dance when I was very small and I just never stopped. I danced through junior high, high school, college and even now. I've honestly never stopped dancing. It's always been a force in my life. I'm similar to Ashlee how I competed a lot in my youth. Competition is fun but I always wanted something more. I knew dance could say so much more.
Gavin: Did either of you attend college to perfect your craft, or were you mainly involved with private courses and live performances?
Ashlee: No, as soon as I turned 18 and graduated high school, I moved to Los Angeles and dedicated my time to The Edge Performing Arts Center and Millennium Dance Studio. I trained and just found teachers who took me under their wing, and studied and performed as much as I could and my career took off from there.
Temria: Yes, I did attend college at the University of Utah. I received my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Modern Dance from its dance department in 2009. I met up with Ashlee right after graduation and I've been dancing alongside her ever since.
Gavin: What was it like for both of you to start performing for a living and being a part of, and creating, productions?
Ashlee: I think it's bipolar. Creating shows is my favorite thing, but after the show is done, if I don't have another project lined up I get depressed. So, I'm constantly saving ideas and getting ready for the next project. But, I think every day when I'm creating, I think of how lucky I am and how I can take the ideas out of my mind and put them in front of an audience.
Temria: I have always wanted to perform for a living so it feels very natural to be doing what I always wanted to do. It's amazing doing Transfusion Hype because we're right there in front of Ashlee's creation process and the dancers are a part of the entire production, from music selection, choreography, costuming, venue, etc. The dancers have the biggest voice they could have in a company setting.
Gavin: When did the two of you meet and become friends?
Ashlee: Temria and I actually met a few times through dance classe,s but the time that really stands out was at our mutual friend's birthday party in 2009. We met and the boys we were dating at the time met and all four of us hit it off. One of them was a music producer and one was a singer and then we were both dancers, so we kind of just melted together and it was like an instant connection of awesome!
Temria: Yes, Ashlee's right! We met at the infamous Micheal Burdick's birthday party. We completely hit things off, and we've managed to stay together with our amazing dance relationship.
Gavin: How did the idea for Transfusion Hype Dance Company come about, and where did the name come from?
Ashlee: Well, the reason why I started Transfusion Hype was just that I felt like Utah was lacking a company that could bridge the gap between commercialism and artistry. There's a lot of commercial stuff here in Utah and then there's also the very artistic side. I was sensing a lack of connections completely, and I had a lot of dancers who were wanting to perform and they had no outlet that fits in perfectly. I'm coming from a commercial background, where I have studied modern and ballet and tap, and so I felt like I was the perfect person to start something and make it different and make it stand out in Utah and just, basically, give all the dancers a stage. I figured if I started something then I am always going to be creating and that solved my challenge. The name Transfusion actually came from one day with my dad. I was thinking about how a lot of performers and actors, when he asked them, "How are you doing?", they just rattled off a resume and dropped names and I thought that it feels so superficial. In a world where we're trying to create something so real, they were being so false. I was like thinking that I really wish that I could take the hype out of everything and just replace it with real, raw, legitimate talent and it would be a hype transfusion, so then I just flipped it and it felt real to me.
Gavin: What was it like putting the company together, and how did you seek out dancers to perform with?
Ashlee: Putting Transfusion Hype together was like dating. I've had people come and go and it's been a perfect fit and it's been a terrible fit and now I have solid members who just love every ideal that I come up with, and it's a fit for me because I love how they move and I love how they do my artwork. I've had people come off and on, and my philosophy of building a company is, basically: Come to class. If you like what I create and it feels good on your body and I like having you, let's do this, and if not, then keep looking for the company that fits you best.
Gavin: What were some of your first shows like out of the gate, and what kind of a learning curve did you have to deal with concerning running a group while performing?
Ashlee: Some of the first performances felt scattered because I was performing and creating and directing and doing all promotional stuff and doing all the costumes; I did everything! I never fully had a grip on everything because I was spread too thin. And then after I did a few shows, I found that the more solid my team was, the easier and more smooth everything would go. Now, I keep it so that I can still be a part of my projects and also direct and be in charge of everything. I have my co-director, Temria, and we trade out sometimes and I run everything through her just to get another opinion and it really keeps things completely smooth, and it keeps me on my toes as far as what needs to be done and what gets to be done.
Temria: With shows, now my main focus is to make sure that Ashlee is centered on the choreography and creative side of things. So, any other area that I can take care of or handle for her, I do. I try to handle the business so she can do the art. She needs to be a clear, creative vessel to work through.
Gavin: What's the process like in creating a new piece for performance, from choreography to first showing?
Ashlee: I first find a song that inspires me or I come up with an idea, and then from that I start to visualize everything in my head. Then, I try out movement and start to piece together some kind of the story or outline, and then I get everything taught, then I cut stuff. I always change what I don't like. I have to have everyone confident to go out on stage.
Gavin: How is it for you booking out your year between festivals and private performances while still keeping a set of original works going so the act doesn't become stale?
Ashlee: Well, I like to think of performing as a DJ would play at a party; basically, we give the audience what they want. We always keep our audience in mind when creating our set list. We just have a lot of pieces on hand, and I like to create something new for every show that we do to see what to filter what works and what we can add.
Gavin: Who is currently a part of the company, and what does everyone bring to the table each show?
Ashlee: We currently have five core members. Temria adds gypsy sass and voice of reason to the company. She also adds the very trained modern style that I love. Brady adds a masculine element and he's just pretty to look at. Fallon adds a very feminine and ballet technical side to the company. Kendall adds power to our team and smiles. We're unstoppable when we all come together.
Temria: We've been dancing together for a while, so we're not only a dance company but we we are a family now and you can see that in our performing. Although each of us has our own specific dance style, we work well together.
Gavin: How's the second half of 2013 looking for appearances, and what can people look forward to seeing as far as new performances?
Temria: We're very excited to be on the lineup for Urban Arts Festival this year! That's coming up on July 20. Toward the end of August, we have an evening of dance we're calling A Summer Night with Transfusion Hype. The date is not specific yet but stay posted on Facebook and we'll let you know. We have also opened up our company-technique class to the public for the summer. This is a really exciting opportunity to improve your dance skills or just come and learn how to dance. We are very welcoming to all levels. Those take place every Tuesday from 9 a.m.-10:30 p.m., and every Thursday from 8-9:30 p.m. at our company's sponsor, Artistic Dance -- 556 E. 12300 South, Draper. It's just $7 per class.
Gavin: Going local, what's your take on the Utah dance scene, both good and bad?
Ashlee: My take on the Utah scene is that there's not enough dancing happening and there are not enough companies to be a part of and there are not enough projects to be a part of. There is so much talent here it's ridiculous!
Temria: I agree with Ashlee. I think Utah has the most talented dancers of any city and I don't think they have enough performance opportunities; I don't think they're given enough credit. We do have amazing professional companies here: Ririe-Woodbury is brilliant, Ballet West is amazing, RDT is amazing, Odyssey kills it, too. But that's not enough. I want to see more companies here. This scene should rival New York City and Los Angeles.
Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?
Ashlee: Yeah, we'll just need to start dancing more.
Temria: More people can be doing what Ashlee and I are doing. All we do is dance and put on shows. Just do it!
Gavin: What's your opinion on other local dance companies and the work they're doing to promote the art?
Ashlee: I like when I see anyone dancing for whatever reason. Zumba class, alone in your living room dancing, starting a company, etc. -- I love it all!
Temria: I've always supported all the dance companies in Salt Lake. I love going to the shows, I love hanging with all the dancers, and I love seeing that entire scene. Support is how dance is going to grow. I think dance is the little sister of all art forms; I want to see it be bigger.
Gavin: What advice do you have for anyone looking to get into professional dancing for a career?
Ashlee: Dance dance dance dance dance! Go to any class you can go to, take anybody's class you can take, travel, get as much training as you can!
Temria: Be brave, be confident in yourself, train like crazy and be the best because you get to a certain point and everybody's better than you so you have to stand out.
Gavin: What can we expect from both of you and THDC over the rest of the year?
Ash: More shows and more videos and more classes.
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to promote?
Temria: We would like to thank our sponspor, Artistic Dance Studio. We also want to give a huge shout-out and thank you to our photographers and videographers: Abdiel Ibarra, Messa Rasmussen, Eric Ferguson and Cody Christopulous. Also, check us out on Facebook.
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