Edson moves to a new phase of dance. See her latest work at Boise Dance Co-op showcase.

doland@idahostatesman.comAugust 23, 2013 

  • Weekend performances

    BOISE DANCE COOPERATIVE CONCERT: 8 p.m. Aug. 23, and 2 and 8 p.m. Aug. 24, Esther Simplot Performing Arts Academy, 516 S. 9th St., Boise. $15-$25 at boisedco.org or at the door.

Lauren Edson is an original mover — a dancer of enormous athletic and technical skill, emotional nuance and dynamic stage presence. She has honed her career as a performer, wowing audiences in Boise and beyond since she was a kid.

Now, as a freelance choreographer, she plans to continue creating moves and building her name from her hometown.

“I’ve said it many times: I didn’t think my career would bring me back to Boise,” Edson says. “I grew up here, studied here and then traveled. I never imagined that I’d be able to return home and dance.”

Edson spoke last week from the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Massachusetts, one of the most esteemed dance venues in the country. There, she and Boise dancer Sayoko Knode performed Edson’s work at its “Inside/Out” series.

Last summer, Edson officially launched her full-time freelance choreography career with a piece she and members of the Boise Dance Co-op took to the Dance Under the Stars Choreography Festival in Palm Desert, Calif.

Edson won the grand prize.

You can see Edson and her new pick-up company, Lauren Edson + Dancers, perform the winning “I Hit the Ground” as part of this weekend’s Boise Dance Co-op concert.

Former Trey McIntyre Project dancer Jason Hartley and Ballet Idaho principal dancer Phyllis Rothwell Affrunti formed the co-op last summer to give local dancers more opportunities.

This concert will offer performances created and danced by members from Off Center Dance, Idaho Dance Theatre, Ballet Idaho and the Trey McIntyre Project.

Edson’s career touches nearly all of these companies. She fell in love with choreography in the fifth grade, she remembers.

“I choreographed an entire production of ‘West Side Story’ and sold tickets for the performance after school,” she says.

That start sparked her desire to choreograph, which she’s felt throughout her career. She kept her interest in her own movement alive as she apprenticed with Ballet Idaho as a teenager.

She next joined Idaho Dance Theatre, a company that offered her first professional choreography gig, before heading to the North Carolina School of the Arts and later the Juilliard School. During those years, she returned to Boise periodically to set works on IDT and perform.

Her style is a mix of the classical ballet, contemporary movement and modern dance she learned along the way, and her own quirky sense of movement that comes out when she improvises to music that inspires her, she says.

“It’s also greatly influenced by the dancers I’m working with and their intuitive sense of moving,” she says.

But like many artists, Edson constantly questioned her abilities and felt unsatisfied with her progress. She left Juilliard early and sought out a different environment with Hubbard Street 2 in Chicago and then as a freelancer in Portland, Ore., working with a wide variety of companies across the country.

But that changed in 2009. Edson, now 30, returned to Boise’s dance scene to join the Trey McIntyre Project. It was a big step toward becoming the artist she is today, she says.

“By the time I came back (to Boise) I could commit to a company, because I was a complete person and I wasn’t sabotaging myself,” she says. “Trey’s work resonated with me. And he’s a huge mentor for me as a choreographer. I hope to have as fluid and seamless a career as a choreographer as he has.”

In 2012, she married musician Andrew Stensaas and left TMP to fulfill her dream of focusing on her own work full time. That same year, she received a performing arts fellowship from the Idaho Commission on the Arts.

And she has enjoyed promising success thus far.

Since winning in Palm Desert, Edson has created dance for several other choreographer competitions, winning audience favorite at Milwaukee Ballet’s Genesis festival and taking top prize at Pensacola Ballet’s 2013 National Choreographic Competition.

She is currently an artist-in-residence at Mystic Ballet in Connecticut, and this fall she will launch a tour of Lauren Edson + Dancers that will travel to Texas, New York and California.

To support her effort, she is creating a Kickstarter.com fundraising campaign and is producing a fundraiser on Sept. 28 at the Egyptian Theatre. Her company will perform the repertory for her tour, including a piece choreographed to music composed by her husband. His pop-rock band, Edmond Dantes, will also perform.

Although the idea of her art as competition has been difficult for Edson, it is a way to gain exposure for her work. It’s also a way she can give back to the Boise dance community that’s been so supportive.

“There’s been so many good dancers to come out of this city,” she says. “I’m proud to have my roots here. My friends and family are here and I’ve had so many great influences from here. I’m even more proud to be able to come back and be an influence on Boise dancers. I’m impacting another generation.”

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