There’s a magic about dance that exists in the moment that it’s seen. It can be recorded or performed again, but it’s not the same as seeing it for the first time. Rebecca Levy is drawn, as other dancers have been before her, to this kinetic magic within the grandeur of the theatre.
Nine years ago, Levy was a transplant looking for her place in the dance scene. As a dance professor at FSCJ, she noticed an abundance of talented dancers and solid dance programs, but no way to advance into the professional sphere without moving to a different city. So, in 2012, she co-founded Jacksonville Dance Theatre (JDT) and is now the Artistic Director.
JDT is pretty unusual as dance companies go. Most spotlight only one choreographer, but JDT is a repertory company. They perform works by many different choreographers, and even commission some outside of Jacksonville. Each piece they create is heavily collaborative, relying on each member to bring the work to life.
Their annual concert is on Saturday, May 11th, at the Florida Theatre. Levy is creating a new work called Body. It’s her exploration of the capacity of the body through dance. She’s collaborating with composer JoAnne C. Maffia, as well as the other members of the company. “I’m not creating in isolation,” she says.
Body began as a way to explore the body shaming she and other dancers recently experienced. She was confused and hurt by it. As a dancer, she is intimately involved with the way her body works. Levy is a very pragmatic person, so she broke the dance down by dividing the body up into individual physical components: blood and muscle, teeth and bones, cell and DNA, etc. Then, the choreography tackles more abstract components. She explores aging by using the oldest dancers in the company during “The Elder Section.” Right now, she’s working on a section examining the mind. “I find that making dances is the easiest way to explain the mysteries of myself to myself,” Levy says.
Levy was 13 when she choreographed her first dance. As a teen, she had a modern dance teacher who believed dancing and choreographing were one and the same. She didn’t realize how unique that was until later—and she’s been choreographing ever since.
Her process is unique, too. She sees the dance, or pieces of the dance, in her mind before she can make the connection to movement. In order to really connect with the work and visualize it, she surrounds herself with creativity that’s not her own. She calls it “drifting laterally.” “I need to be in a space where I can allow my mind to go somewhere else,” she says. It can be a walk through nature or a waltz through an art gallery, as long as she’s walking through creativity and using it to inspire her own. “I used to get my best ideas at Art Basel,” she says.
The second part is collaboration. “To actually create the work I need to be deeply embedded in the studio practice with dancers, with other human bodies.”
Other dances performed at the show will be Stakes Is High by James Morrow, which is a blend of urban and modern dance. Tanked is a piece choreographed by Jay Jackson who is best known for his drag personality Laganja Estranja. Tanked explores the abuses of animals in captivity. Bryn Cohn will be presenting Buckeye Jim, which explores femininity and competition through four female performers.