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Gavin's Underground

Sugar Space: Causing A Decision

by Gavin Sheehan
- Posted // 2014-02-26 -
Starting tomorrow evening, the Sugar Space will play host to the latest [co•da] production, Cause A Decision, created by the very dancers you'll see perform. Seven choreographed pieces will make their debut, carefully crafted in the Sugar House studio space the company calls home, at the very cheap price of $12. Aside the performers, the evening will include a guest piece by Eric Handman from the University of Utah's Department of Modern Dance, giving the evening of unknown treats an educational boost.

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Today we chat with Sugar Space founder Brittany Reese about the performance and what people can expect headed into opening night. (All pictures courtesy of Sugar Space.)

Brittany Reese
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Gavin: Hey Brittany, first thing, how have you been since we last chatted?

Brittany: Hey Gavin, thanks for having us back! Things have been well. I am enjoying this unusually warm weather and it has helped us make substantial progress on the renovations on the large warehouse portion of our new downtown facility. Since currently the HVAC system hasn't been installed, we wouldn't have been able to get much done if it had been traditional February weather but we haven't had hardly any cold days and so are moving along nicely!

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Gavin: How has the Sugar Space been doing lately, both in Sugar House and the new River District locale?

Brittany: We have been really busy which is great. It seems there is a large need for space for artists to create and show work and for the community to hold events. I like being able to provide space and support for these kinds of endeavors. We have some exciting partnerships brewing with private institutions (fingers crossed), resident theater companies, and other groups. With our new space, we are now able to provide a different kind of dedicated space for a small group of visual artists which is fun. As you know, we have our cooperative dance company [co.da], performing this weekend. In addition, we just had a great visiting guest artist stop by to teach a master class, Julia Burrer from Doug Varone and Dancers, NYC. BodyLogic Dance Company wrapped up a show last weekend with live performance by the great local band L'Anarchiste. We are getting ready for a new art installation by Barbara Hall and then a group of photography students from the University of Utah will be hanging their work for 45 days in our gallery. Also LOTS of new classes starting up at the space! Karma Collective, GROOVE Academy, acting, bellydance, martial arts, figure drawing and more.

Gavin: Getting right to it, How did [co•da] come about as a residential dance company for the space?

Brittany: A dancer in the current company, Lisa Shen, reminded me that she learned about [co.da] when I came speak to a class of dance major students at the University of Utah to talk about my role in the Salt Lake arts community. The idea developed because I had a desire to create a professional level company that works together to put together performances, classes, etc. with no central artistic director. Sugar Space creates the basic working structure of the company, provides the space and administrative support, provides mentoring and oversight, but the members get to collectively participate in the majority of decision making. In addition to providing professional level dancers more performance opportunities, it is a fantastic learning opportunity for other skills like presenting, arts administration, marketing, fundraising, collaborations and more. I felt like Utah has a bit of a void after dancers graduate from a dance program. There are very few local, post graduation performance opportunities and professional training. By providing opportunities like [co.da], hopefully seeds develop, companies are made, artists grow together and hopefully build roots here which makes the local landscape more vibrant for all of us.

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Gavin: What was it like putting the group together and establishing them at the Space?

Brittany: I get very involved in the first few weeks of each new six month session of the company. This includes sifting through applications, arranging auditions, creating surveys, questionnaires, trying to gather peoples skill list to help assign initial admin jobs that keep the company going, etc. Getting these things out of the way in the beginning help to get the company off to a quick start so they can do the fun stuff of creating the art. Once the group is picked and people are given admin roles, I really step out and hopefully magic happens. This is the third group of [co.da] members we have had and our largest group yet. It is still a learning experience and is a bit in it's infant stages but there are definitely some great things that come about with each new group and the idea has a lot of potential. Lisa Shen said “since we have fourteen members in the company, it was difficult at first to separate the jobs. A couple of people from the current company had been in co.da in the previous times and they have served as our guides on what works and what doesn't." Ashley Mott said “there are so many DIFFERENT dancers - different backgrounds, different degrees of training in different forms, different choreographic styles - it has been both challenging and rewarding to work that way - with such a heterogeneous group."

Gavin: How has it been working with the group on projects and opening up the space to more performances with them involved?

Brittany: This session [co.da] did a few performances outside of Sugar Space for example at a fundraiser for a great organization Nurture the Creative Mind as well as Salt Lake Community College. We would like to do more of those kinds of things in the community but six months goes by pretty quickly. We are analyzing of whether we want to extend the 6 month period in the future.

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Gavin: How did the idea for Cause A Decision come about?

Brittany: This was decided on by the company. Lisa Shen said it was based on the idea of cause and effect. They make a "decision" to "cause" an effect. The title of the concert was based on the overall theme of the dances that were proposed by the choreographers. You may see similarities with some dances and you may not. With Eric's dance, it surrounds the theme of "cause and effect." With Fiona's dance, it is about life and afterlife, which also surrounds the same theme (death "causes" the afterlife).

Gavin: Was there any specific theme that went into the show or was it more of a “create what you'd like” kind of mentality?

Brittany: The choreographers proposed their ideas and then the potential underlying “theme” of the concert that related to this company of dancers was created.

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Gavin: What was the process like in choosing who would be choreographing each piece and formulating how the show would go?

Brittany: This was one of those administrative things that I try to help out with in the beginning. Initially in addition to interviewing potential members about what they are interested in creating, teaching, etc. we asked who wanted to choreograph. After dancers were chosen we figured out the schedule with current studio time availability. Next, we narrowed it down based on the fact that the company felt it would be more fulfilling to show works that were longer and more thoughtfully choreographed instead of multiple dances of 4-5 minutes each. This narrowing down process is how we came to the final pieces that were chosen for the concert.

Gavin: How did Eric Handman become involved as a guest choreographer and how has it been working with him?

Brittany: Eric Handman is a dance professor at the University of Utah. Although he has been invited to other parts of country and abroad to do residencies, performances and teaching, outside of the University setting his work has not been seen much in the Salt Lake area. He brings a dance style that many of the members were unfamiliar with so it has been a great experience for them. He is great to work with and we wanted to expose his work to a new audience.

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Gavin: What advantage would you say these dancers and this show has compared to ones in a traditional theatre setting?

Brittany: Ashley Mott said “One advantage is the flexibility - what [co.da] does isn't dictated by a season or a single director's vision. There is a lot of diversity in the company and the show.”

Gavin: What is your favorite piece that you've seen and are looking most forward to when it runs?

Brittany: I haven't actually seen any of the work yet except some of the screendance video work and a couple minutes of Eric Handman's piece during tech rehearsal. I am very excited though by the rehearsal pictures that have been circulating and rumors that have been going around of fake eyelashes and radically diverse pieces. One dancer was excited to share her strong feelings for a duet by Josh Mora that is very relevant with everything that is going on right now politically in Utah - and nationwide - regarding rights to partnership and marriage, what it means to love someone, etc.

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Gavin: What are your thoughts headed into the show?

Brittany: The dancers have worked very hard on this show over the past six months and have made a lot of sacrifices to be part of the company. In addition to creating a large collection of original work they raised over $2,000 with a Fundly campaign and through local sponsors and advertisements. They are talented and driven artists and I am thrilled to work with them. I am also very excited to be surprised, like everyone else in the audience who will be seeing the show for the first time, this weekend. We hope the community will come out and support them and see a great show.

Gavin: What can we expect from you, the dance troupe and Sugar Space over the rest of the year?

Brittany: The company and Sugar Space will meet next week to gather, analyze, party and decide when and how the next session will start! We are excited by all the future possibilities. Contact us if you want to audition for the next session at admin@thesugarspace.com.

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Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?

Brittany: Come see [co.da] this week, Feb. 27 to March 1 at 7:30 p.m. $2 off ticket price with the donation of two non-perishable items to be donated to the food bank, buy tickets at our website or by calling 888-300-7898. Also, upcoming groups performing in our venue include Utah Theater Repertory Company, Silver Summit Theater Company, ToySoup Comedy to name a few. This May we will also be hosting Katie Duck, a performance and improvisational dance artist from Amsterdam who will be teaching a two day workshop and giving an intimate performance. Lastly, I just want to continue to get the word out that we have space for rent for performances, classes, workshops, events and more. Our 7,000 square foot warehouse space is scheduled to open around June of this year so keep us in mind for all your fall space needs. People utilizing the facility and attending performances is what keeps us in business and able to do what we do!


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