One more for the Rowe: The co-founder and choreographer is leaving Idaho Dance Theatre

doland@idahostatesman.comApril 18, 2014 

  • Ticket info

    IDAHO DANCE THEATRE SPRING PERFORMANCE : 8 p.m. April 18-19 and 2 p.m. April 20, Special Events Center, Boise State University. $12-$37. idahodancetheatre.org.

The mood inside Idaho Dance Theatre's studio last week was a mix of bittersweet joy and exhaustion. The company had just completed a run-through of its next program - an evening of Carl Rowe dances that will mark his exit from the company he helped found 25 years ago.

As the dancers moved through Rowe's thoughtful and athletic movements - they twisted, reached, dropped, entwined, squiggled and at times burst with laughter - Rowe looked on. The more they danced, the brighter the room became.

It has been a whirlwind preparing for this weekend's concert that will feature full- length pieces and excerpts from five Rowe ballets, including "Shadowbreak," a new commission from friend, collaborator and composer Jim Cockey.

The Langroise Trio and guests will perform Cockey's 20-minute suite during the show.

It's hard to imagine Idaho Dance Theatre without Rowe. His intriguing mix of Modern movement is one of its signatures. It's a diversity you'll see on stage this weekend, and nowhere more impressively than in his newest piece that seamlessly flows from duets to trios to group sections in a range of moods and styles.

"It's fabulous music and it's been a joy and a challenge to choreograph," Rowe says. "It's made me think of movement differently to follow its sweep and complexity."

Cockey's composition is rhythmically tricky.

"It's constantly changing," he says, taking out his pile of pages, filled with numbers, plus signs, dashes, dots and other marks.

"I'm making movement phrases that give the feel of the musical phrase. So, the dancers don't have to count, they just have to listen," Rowe says.

Rowe and co-artistic director Marla Hansen founded IDT in 1989 along with her husband, lighting designer and then-dancer Fred Hansen.

By the mid-'90s, Marla Hansen started teaching at Boise State University, where she now heads the dance program and where the company has its rehearsal home, though it is still an independent entity.

Hansen comes from the world of ballet, while Rowe is deeply grounded in Modern. The two met with mutual respect on stage and their contrast became the company's hallmark.

"We work so well together. Still, it's amazing that we lasted so long," Rowe says.

Rowe has created 110 ballets over his career, the bulk of them for IDT. He leaves a strong imprint on the company and on Boise's dance community.

"Many people don't know the extent of his impact as a teacher, choreographer and mentor," Hansen says. "He's an exceptional talent, and nothing speaks to that more than his newest work. He just keeps getting better."

More than 100 dancers have gone through IDT, many of whom have moved on to their own careers as performers, choreographers and artistic directors.

Rowe's announcement that he would leave the company came as a surprise, says IDT dancer Casee Hogg, who started taking classes from Rowe at 12.

"I don't believe it," Hogg says. "Carl has made a huge contribution to the dance community in Boise. He has challenged himself and his dancers time and time again. I love doing his work. It's very challenging, and ultimately rewarding."

Rowe takes exception to the word "retiring." That's definitely not his intention, he says.

"I'm just leaving IDT. It is time," he says. "I've been doing this for 25 years. That's long enough and I want to do other things. It's been a labor of love for all those years, and lately the labor outstripped the love."

Rowe's departure will significantly impact the future of the company, which is struggling financially.

For the past two years, Rowe has been executive director. Hansen will take over those duties and do her best to keep the company going, she says.

For financial reasons, they will need to go from a full-time to a part-time company manager after this season.

"There are so many talented dancers here who need a company like this," Hansen says. "It's just been hard to get the community support."

Artistically, she plans to focus on collaborations, bringing in new choreographers - including Rowe when he's ready.

Though he does see that happening in the future, now it's time for a new direction, he says - for example, art.

Rowe also is an accomplished painter, and one of Boise's signature visual artists. He is known for iconic paintings of the Boise Foothills but he hasn't had the time to pick up a brush in the past few years.

He also would like to see if other companies would want to produce his choreography.

Now with more time, it's like opening a door, he says.

"I don't know what's on the other side yet," he says. "I want to explore what's out there. And even if there's nothing on the other side, I'm at a place where I'm completely content because I've had a dance career that few people get to have. I don't have to say 'I wish I had.' "

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