Dance, supposedly the most ephemeral of the arts, has the power to put down hardy roots in unlikely ground. Consider Marta Becket, the New York ballerina and show dancer who established her own company of one in Death Valley Junction, where she performed for over 40 years.
Or Maui’s Adaptations Dance Theatre, founded in 2013 and going strong as the island’s home for professionals in modern dance — a barefoot, often more muscular alternative to classical ballet.
At ADR three muses hold sway, dancers all.
“You have to shuffle,” says Hallie Hunt, one of two co-artistic directors who piece together their livings by teaching and performing. “It’s a patchwork quilt,” says Amelia Couture, the other.
“It’s like building the plane in the air,” adds Jen Cox, the executive director, who has a full-time day job as an administrator in a mental health treatment center. “Hallie and Amelia are the ones with the vision, and my job is to make it happen.”
Cox comes to modern dance from a mix of jazz, hip-hop and other styles; in their dreams Couture and Hunt used to dance “Swan Lake.”
The trio’s latest milestone was the company’s fourth annual summer dance concert at Seabury Hall’s classy ‘A‘ali‘ikuhonua Creative Arts Center, presenting four world premieres. The umbrella title “Bring It Home” reflects an agenda.
Whether they were born and raised here or moved here from somewhere else, the leaders of the company are all full-time residents of Maui on a mission to share and grow the professionalism they bring back from the mainland.
Modern dance was the right niche for that. “I want to push myself as a choreographer and the dancers as dancers,” says Hunt. “I want us all to keep moving forward.”
Energy abounded in the four new pieces; space was there to be devoured. There were startling departures from the vertical, cartwheels and stop-action balances upside down. And without telling what you’d call a “story,” exactly, each of the new pieces followed its own theatrical logic.
In “’Ula,” Couture created a fiery starring role for a shape-shifting length of red cloth. In “Ruin,” Hall drove home bad news about climate change with jolts of humor.
Working in tandem as KLOCK, Florian Lochner and Alice Klock contributed two pieces. The big one, “Ellipse,” featured an ensemble of 12 who formed subgroups, merged into new ones, finally separating into the many who are going the same way and the one who stays behind.
The smaller one, “Pan Meli,” a duet for the choreographers themselves, posed the question, Can a woman who weighs 122 pounds lift a man who weighs 75 kilograms? (That’s a spread of 43 pounds.) Yes, came the answer, but why should she have to? Let her fly!
Between the local talent and visitors — most conspicuously the towering Nathaniel Hunt, who parachutes in from New York — 19 eager movers were on the job, and it got crowded up there. That’s one index of the company’s connection with the community, but hardly the only one.
In November ADT presented its annual “Dance Maui” concert, spotlighting local and guest performers of every stripe: a whiz-bang break dancer, a Caribbean enchantress, ethnic dancers with roots in Africa and Asia, and yes, a hula dancer — a hula dancer really pushing the envelope.
A happier afternoon in the MACC courtyard against the drop-dead backdrop of Mauna Kahalawai would be hard to imagine. Now the search is on for as charmed a venue for the next edition.
More immediately, in a spirit of continuing outreach, ADT is launching “Morning Buzz,” a monthly dance workshop dedicated to the visionary proposition that “Every Body Dances,” held at Lumeria Maui, 1813 Baldwin Ave., in Makawao.
The inaugural session takes place Sept. 8 from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Priced at an affordable $15, it’s open to all, no experience required. Find more information at adaptationsdancetheater.com.