Dancer Jason Hartley dive-bombed the floor, rolled, leapt and appeared to float over the studio at Esther Simplot Performing Arts Academy Annex last week. The occasion was a sneak preview for the new Boise Dance Cooperative, an offseason pick-up company that will debut this weekend.
Hartley, a former Trey McIntyre Project dancer, co-founded the Co-op with Ballet Idaho ballerina Phyllis Rothwell Affrunti to bring dancers together during the offseason, when there is no professional dance occurring.
I just couldnt believe that there was no dance in Boise all summer long, Hartley says. There are too many companies here to not take advantage of the situation. Dancers can get a side job to survive, but then theyre not staying in shape.
Hartley moved to Boise in 2008 when TMP anchored itself here. Prior to that he had been a dancer at Washington Ballet in D.C.
Hartley instantly fell in love with Boise, he says, and since departing TMP earlier this year he has found a way to stay in Boise to work as a dancer and spend time with his wife, Carissa, and their dog, Jack.
The longer Im here, the more I love it, truly, he says. When I was going on the road with TMP, hitting 30 or 40 cities each year, I was always comparing them to Boise. My love affair with Boise will continue forever more. Im going to die here.
BDC is one opportunity he made happen, and there are others. Hartley choreographed the second-act peasant dance in Idaho Shakespeare Festivals The Winters Tale, which opens this weekend. Hes been teaching at studios across the Valley and now is Ballet Idahos ensemble director.
Last weeks Co-op preview featured 10 dancers from Ballet Idaho, Idaho Dance Theatre, Off Center Dance Project and choreography from TMPs Chanel DaSilva. There are 24 dancers total in the performance.
Though running and creating through BDC inspires him, Hartley will not always perform. At 35, he says, this might be his performance swan song or at least it will be the last time he does this demanding solo.
Its hard to say if Im really retiring or not, Hartley admits. Michael Jordan quit basketball, then went to baseball, then back to the Wizards. So I might have a few false starts, but I thought I would quit dance at 30, so everything after that has been a gift.
BDC will offer a haven for both classical and contemporary dance, and is open to more.
This is going to mold to whatever avenue it wants to go next, Hartley says.
That could be more concerts, or something more organic, like an art improv night, but not just for dance, he says. For all disciplines music, actors, painters. Thats just an idea Im bouncing around.
Hartley and Affrunti came up with the idea for BDC in her living room. They eventually pulled Affruntis husband, Frank, who is a former principle with Ballet Idaho, into the mix. He will set a piece and perform a duet with Hartley titled Shook on It.
Hartley and Frank go way back. Frank taught Hartley in Des Moines, Iowa, when Hartley was a kid.
To get things going Phyllis and Hartley created a successful KickStarter campaign that raised the $5,000 they needed to produce the two performances and pay the dancers. They started inviting dancers to get involved.
Seeing this idea come to life, and that people are so supportive I cant believe it, says Phyllis, who will be behind the scenes for this one as she recovers from surgery to remove a bone spur in her ankle.
More dance in Boise is good for the art form. Thats why dancers such as Ballet Idahos Adrienne Kerr jumped at the chance to perform. She and former IDT dancer Yurek Hanson will perform an excerpt from Sanctified Shells, a contemporary ballet Hartley choreographed in 2002 for the Kennedy Center while he was at Washington Ballet.
This is an amazing opportunity to collaborate with everyone in the valley, Kerr says. You grow leaps and bounds when you do something new. Im moving in a whole new way in Jasons piece. I get to be different and to explore who I am as a dancer and as an artist.
Hanson, who retired from IDT, a company hes danced with most of his life, plans to travel globally and explore movement, but says he might return to Boise.
With this guy (pointing to Hartley) hanging around, theres going to be some pretty cool stuff happening here, Hanson says.