This weekend’s performance by the dance troupe Peninsula Artists in Motion mark both the group’s 15th year of existence and a return to the large annual shows it has held in the past. The shows will be Friday and Saturday at Kenai Central High School at 7 p.m.
Many of the 15 members of the troupe — who range in age from 17 to 65 — started dancing as children in local dance academies or school groups and continued into adulthood. Some are now instructors as those academies while others have gone on to professions such as nursing, massage therapy, and civil engineering, according to biographies on the Peninsula Artists in Motion website. Their commonality remains dance.
“Between Kenai and Soldotna there’s two — I think three now — dance studios, but really Peninsula Artists in Motion is the only adult company on the peninsula that I know of,” said cofounder and Encore Dance Academy owner Tara Phillips.
Peninsula Artists in Motion previously staged a large show every year or so, but — due to a decline in membership and other activities — hasn’t done so recently. Nonetheless, the group has still been active, said cofounder and co-artistic director Katrina Carpenter.
“We’ve just kind of focused on smaller performances, smaller venues — dance studio performances, high school mass dance performances, traveling to Anchorage and performing with the Anchorage Ballet Academy,” Carpenter said. She added that Artists in Motion has been doing smaller local performances at events such as the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank’s fundraisers and meetings of the Kenai Peninsula Builder’s Association.
Among things, the group spent this summer organizing flashmob dances — in which a group of dancers standing surreptitiously in a public crowd suddenly break out in synchronized dance — at Kenai’s Fourth of July celebration and the Kenai River Festival in Soldotna.
“We’ve kind of tried to get out in the community a little bit more,” Carpenter said. “And so it was nice to take a break. Putting on our own entire performances is very different from just having a couple pieces. It’s a lot more work, and it’s — I don’t want to say more rewarding, but it’s a different kind of rewarding.”
Artist in Motion member Christine Morin, an instructor who previously taught both the group’s founders, said Friday’s show will have about 15 dances ranging in style from tap, hip-hop, and jazz to belly-dancing and contemporary movement, and ranging in form from solos, duets, and small ensembles to the entire troupe. Most of the dancers are also choreographers, Phillips said, and almost all of them have been involved in designing their dances.
The performances Morin designed include a jazz dance to a medley of Motown songs and a solo piece from the musical “A Chorus Line” featuring a dancer in a semi-circle of mirrors. She’ll also be participating in an ensemble piece choreographed by Carpenter — a contemporary dance to the Belgian singer Stromae’s song “Cancer” — which she described as slow and intense.
“I recently, almost a year ago, lost my grandmother to cancer, and I’ve lost other loved ones as well,” Carpenter said. “And I’ve had quite a few who survived. I always felt like this is a piece I needed to do… For me it was about finding movement that expressed how I felt about it. Just either frustrated or upset, defeated. But it’s actually a two-part piece. The second movement is about what is next — what happens after cancer, whether it’s the next life, or you get to move on to the next thing, you survived, and what’s next. It’s a little more soft, not so sad, I guess. I don’t want to end on a sad note, so it’s a little hopeful.”
The “Cancer” performance will include the whole troupe, but another of Carpenter’s pieces will be a duet, featuring herself and her daughter, Maizie Carpenter — also a member of the Peninsula Artists in Motion — who is graduating high school this year. Her graduation is a similar bittersweet mix of feeling, Katrina Carpenter said.
Not all of Carpenter’s choreography comes from personal experiences, though.
“I have a belly-dancing piece that’s just play, based on the fun of movement,” Carpenter said. “And the Broadway piece is just fun, and definitely not based on personal experience.”
Also at Friday’s show, Peninsula Artists in Motion will mark their 15th year as a dance troupe with a reprise.
“One of the pieces that we’re doing is actually from our very first concert that we put on as a whole by ourselves, and we’ve decided to bring that one back for our 15th anniversary,” Carpenter said. “It’s called ‘Earth,’ and it’s a quartet… A lot of vocalization in the music, some drums, and it’s very slow. ‘Nurturing’ is a comment a lot of people have said when they’ve seen it. The movement itself is simple, but it’s nice to give the audience a chance to really see and take it in.”
After wrapping up the last performance of their self-created show on Saturday, Peninsula Artists in Motion will take on a collaborative project: for 10 members, their next appearance on a local stage will be as dancers in the Kenai Performers’ upcoming production of “Guys and Dolls.”