This weekend, J. Lindsay Brown Dance asks audience members to get outside of their own mindsets and see things from a different perspective with Out of the Echo Chamber, an evening of collaborative and innovative dance.
Company founder J. Lindsay Brown said frustration with the current state of politics and art led her to design an entire show around challenging people to think outside of their comfort zones and move beyond their echo chambers.
“Last spring while election stuff was starting to heat up, I was thinking about how many people were posting really just stupid stuff,” Brown said. “I saw these people who I knew were really smart people on both sides…they never truly considered a viewpoint different than their own.”
Brown then realized this resistance to move beyond one’s own views extends past politics into art, as well. She noticed that a lot of choreographers use the same format and motifs again and again. While costumes and music might be different, they were creating the same works over and over.
“People were trapped in an echo chamber with themselves,” she said. “Very few people had really ever pushed themselves out of what they usually do.”
Looking to shake any trace of commonality and complacency, Brown got to work on Out of the Echo Chamber, inviting guest choreographers to offer their own unique pieces outside of their traditional work.
Brown said one challenge she believes choreographers face is that dance is a liberal art on its own. What others might consider edgy has often been done in dance before. The question she found herself trying to answer was how do you actually do something new? How do you push out of your echo chamber?
“I acknowledged the whole time it might not be really possible…I will catch myself doing a certain structure or using a certain tool that maybe feels a little repetitive or redundant,” Brown said. “[But] maybe we should just try something that really is different for us.”
While seeking choreography submissions for this show, that is the point she emphasized. She said she was not looking for edgy, but for something truly different and difficult for the choreographer.
For this show, one choreographer is working with a screen for the first time, exploring the idea of an outsider looking in. Another uses an actor alongside the dancers, explaining what success is and the terrible advice people give on how to be successful. A third choreographer is trying her hand for the first time at building collaboration between tap and modern dance.
In her own work, Brown said the key is to ask herself if a piece she choreographs looks like the last one she did and if it makes sense with what she wants to convey. She also collaborates with different people, pulling movement from the dancers and inserting their voices and styles into the work. She said that at the end of the day, she’s just the editor putting all of the pieces together.
For one of her Out of the Echo Chamber pieces, Brown is using an actress as a live narrator for the first time. She said the challenge she faced was deciding how the actress moved across the stage and ensuring she was fully integrated with the dancers. Together with the other pieces, the works make up a diverse evening of dance.
“It’s impossible that you won’t [be entertained],” Brown said. “I really want [the audience] to be transported into many different worlds…I want them to really feel like they’ve been on a huge journey.”
She hopes this journey gives audience members a glimpse into perspectives different than their own, or makes them think about something they’ve never thought about before. While not an antidote to the world’s larger problem of communicating across differing viewpoints and stepping outside of comfort zones, Brown thinks it’s a good start point.
“I’m hoping that by pushing people to keep stretching or bending around to look at something different, they will leave having flexed that muscle. We all have that, we just don’t like to use it,” Brown said. “If we can start do that with our art, maybe we would be more likely to do it with everything else, as well.”
However, Brown acknowledge “That’s a really ambitious goal for something that’s shorter than a Disney movie, but it’s a start.”
Collaborators include Airyn Digman, Jessica Madden, Megan Rhodes, and Earlyn Whitehead.
The show runs March 31 and April 1 at 7:45 p.m. at Dovetail Studios, 2853 West Montrose Ave. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased here.