Chicago choreographer Jessica Tomlinson curls up next to the mirrors in the Idaho Dance Theatre studios at Boise State University as she intently watches a run-through of her piece Architecture: Splintered and Cracked.
The music of Schnittke and Shostakovich fills the room as the dancers throw themselves into Tomlinsons dynamic movement, creating architectural structures with their bodies, creating a wall of motion.
Her commanding voice directs the eight IDT dancers through her intricate choreography. When she comes off the floor to demonstrate, she shows herself to be a powerful and deeply grounded mover.
Everything is living in the moment for me, Tomlinson says. Every work is a new adventure.
This adventure that brought her to Boise a month ago grew out of the New Visions Choreography Competition, which is geared to bring new choreographers to work with IDT.
Co-artistic directors Marla Hansen and Carl Rowe chose Architecture out of 35 submissions from across the country.
Every time we watched the finalists, hers kept rising to the top, Rowe says.
Tomlinsons style is a good fit for IDT. It is fast and athletic, filled with difficult partnering and intriguing group compositions and shapes, and it is pushing the dancers out of their comfort zones.
Thats good, says Sayoko Knode.
When you work with choreographers you know, you can almost predict what they want. Not with her, she says. Everything is a question.
Tomlinson created the piece a few years ago for Thodos Dance Chicago, a company of which Tomlinson is a member. Its been in that companys repertory and performed at Jacobs Pillow in Massachusetts.
In 2009, she jump-started her freelance career by winning the Chicago Dance Award. That allowed her to produce her first solo concert.
Tomlinson found her inspiration for Architecture in a painting she saw at the Chicago Art Institute of a waterfall composed of human bodies.
I thought it was a great idea, but you really couldnt do a waterfall in a theater, she says. Then I started looking at the painting sideways and from other angles, and I decided a wall of bodies I could do.
Tomlinson collaborated with her husband, Nathan, who is the lighting designer for Thodos.
The lights really help give structure to the piece, Tomlinson says.
Coming to Idaho is a great experience, she says. Its the first time her work has been seen this far west. She knew about the company through former IDT dancer Jen Gorman, who lived in Chicago, and choreographer Lauren Edson, whom Tomlinson knew from North Carolina School of the Arts and Hubbard Street 2.
I knew I would be working with a high caliber of dancers and that was important for me, she says. Theyre actually a lot like Thodos dancers. Strong, ballet-trained but very grounded in modern technique.
Architecture will premiere this weekend along with two new works by Rowe and Hansen.
The show will open with Hansens Now We are Here, a collaboration with Boise composer Eric Sandmeyer that commemorates Boises Sesquicentennial. Based on Idaho poetry, it features music performed by Boise State music faculty soprano Laura Rushing-Raynes, pianist Bart Moreau, cellist Brian Hodges and saxophonist Rodney Zuroeveste.
Rowes The Story of Humanity is a collaboration with film composer Robin Zimmerman. They took a different creative approach, with Rowe choreographing without music. Then Zimmerman set her music to a video of the piece as she would score a film.
Her score is more of a soundscape that includes a mix of instrumentation and natural sounds, inspired by Rowes primal narrative, Zimmerman says.
It was an amazing experience for me, she says. My music becomes bare when its set to dance and not dialogue. Im bending to the movements, responding to the slightest shoulder roll. There are more chances to sculpt the music.
For Rowe, the experience turned out to be both limiting and liberating, he says.
It made me realize how much I rely on music to help me make decisions and to guide me, Rowe says. Something is usually as long as the music. I was all over the place at first.
The dancers began rehearsing to a metronome to keep the tempo.
We would discover the meter for choreography we would create as we went along, Rowe says. Robin did an amazing job of pulling it all together.