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BIODANCE celebrates 12 years in the art of humanity 

BIODANCE Artistic Director Missy Pfohl Smith describes the company's upcoming 12th anniversary event as a celebration of life, of collaboration with different artists, and of the audience. The contemporary repertory dance company this week will mark a dozen years with four concerts at Geva Theatre Center's Fielding Stage, featuring a world premiere, two Rochester premieres, and revival works from their repertoire.

Known for their use of multi-disciplinary art and expressive performance style, BIODANCE, which translates to "life dance," is described by Smith as "art that has an overwhelming sense of humanity."

Through the years BIODANCE has presented performances with themes of social, political, and environmental issues; and conducted workshops, performed benefit concerts, and offered interactive lecture-demonstrations and classes at various venues in town. These performers don't shy away from expressing life through art -- social justice is a frequent theme, and pieces in the upcoming concerts tell stories about technology, nature, and the 1940s ban on dancing in cabarets.

"A lot of our dances are a reflection of what's going on in life," Smith says. "It's coming out of our relationships, concerns, things we voice together. It's a way to express life and concerns, but also prompt thought."

Current company members Jeanne Schickler Compisi, Sarah Dearstyne, Sarah Johnson, Natalia Lisina, Nanako Horikawa Mandrino, Alaina Olivieri, Julie Schlafer Rossette, Jean Michael Rubingu, Missy Pfohl Smith, and Courtney World all come from different backgrounds, from professor to world-renowned choreographer, and they each work to bring those experiences together into one exciting and raw body of work. Plans for the 12th anniversary celebration showcase this diversity and acknowledge the community that supported them through grants, donations, and the support of local organizations.

"Each of the pieces is different and there's something for everyone," Smith says. "We're celebrating not only our progress, but the way the community has contributed to us. It's also a celebration of our audience."

The 12th anniversary was chosen for the big celebration because prior anniversaries simply did not leave organizers enough time to put everything together. The concerts will include a number of dance and visual art collaborations. Heidi Latsky, renowned choreographer and founder of Heidi Latsky Dance (a mixed-ability company that works to empower people with disabilities in New York City) will revisit "Solo Countersolo," in which Smith as the soloist and an ensemble will create a weaving, moving landscape of bodies set to composer Chris Brierley's lively score.

Digital media artist W. Michelle Harris, who has worked with Smith on past performances "Anomaly" and "Labyrinth" for the Rochester Fringe Festival, will premiere a new collaborative piece, "Loom," which features motion-capture technology and live music by composer and Eastman School of Music graduate Garret Reynolds.

Also commissioned for a Rochester premier is "That's All Folks," a memory- and community-themed work by Maine-based emerging choreographers Flannery Black-Ingersoll and Johanna Hayes. Smith discovered the piece while at a New England dance conference and says it "had the entire audience, and myself, in tears."

Other performances will include the repertoire works "I.T." and "No Dancing Allowed," choreographed by Smith and featuring live music by Mark Olivieri; and "Possible Side Effects," choreographed by Jeanne Schickler Compisi.

"We just express things with live music and art," Smith says. "And this art has never existed in this combination. We took some time putting this together because it certainly feels like 12 years of work."

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