Empowered by its mission to bring dance back in front of people, Formations Dance Company in Birmingham is set to debut its next performance, Metamorphosis, on November 6 at The Dance Foundation in Homewood.
The nonprofit professional dance company formed in Birmingham in 2019, seeking to fill a gap in Birmingham, which lacked a contemporary dance company.
“We started nice and small and had grassroots support, and we’re growing over the years and getting bigger,” said Formations’ director Whitney Renfroe, who works alongside codirector Nell Goza. “We want to make [contemporary dance] culturally relevant and open ourselves up to new audiences.”
The company’s fall concert will premiere new pieces Formations has choreographed, including emotionally charged works and even a comedy routine. The grand finale of the night will feature a collaboration with Birmingham painter Sarah Mason, where dancers will apply paint to a canvas with their bodies through a choreographed series of movements.
“Then Sarah will work her magic on the piece, and we’ll auction it off to the highest bidder in the audience and donate the proceeds from the auction to a local charity,” Renfroe said. “It will be a super fun night, and [the finale] will be the biggest crowd pleaser.”
The company’s last show was called Resurgence, as we as a society began to merge out of the pandemic and became ready to bring art to the stage again.
“We are coming into our fall performance asking, ‘Where do we go from here?’” Renfroe said. “We’ve already surged back out into the spotlight, things aren’t totally settled with the pandemic, and we’re in a state of ‘What’s safe? What’s not? What feels feasible or risky?’ We are changing with the tide of life and meeting the world where we are in this moment.”
Formations focuses on contemporary dance, which, like many performing styles of dance, is rooted in ballet – but takes its ballet roots and fuses it with modern dance and jazz that sometimes, Renfroe said, is at the whim of the choreographer.
“There’s not as much of a set system – it’s more dependent on the dancers themselves, which is very organic but also very athletic,” she said. “It’s such an interesting fusion, especially with the dancers we have in my company. Some of them have acrobatic skills they do on stage, and it really pulls from the pot of everyone is involved and it highlights their strengths.”
Another element of contemporary dance is it is an emotional performance, and, whereas stories from ballets like Swan Lake or The Nutcracker may not be incredibly relevant to today’s audience, contemporary meets the audience right where they are.
“What’s special and unique about it is that it goes with the times,” Renfroe said. “One of the pieces we’re performing takes a look at the pandemic, one takes a look at the journey of a woman through motherhood, it takes a look at interactions with people we meet on the street. We aim to make it very mentally and emotionally relevant.”
The company is comprised of nine company members and one training apprentice and is focused on putting high-quality performances into the community, calling itself a small, grassroots contemporary dance company unlike any other in Birmingham.
“The athleticism our dancers are capable of is really, really special,” Renfroe said. “Birmingham doesn’t have much dance on a professional level. That’s what we’re trying to forge.”
And Renfroe encourages any and all to join the company for Metamorphosis next month.
“I guarantee it will do so much more for your soul than just another night in front of the TV,” she said. “You will feel things.”
PHOTO CREDIT: Formations Dance Company