Arts & Culture

Dana Oland: Boise’s Lydia Sakolsky-Basquill created Project Flux to explore how movement feels, not just how it looks

Dana Oland
Dana Oland

Boise’s contemporary dance culture is in flux. When the Trey McIntyre Project ceased to be a full-time dance company, it created a vacuum. Recently, several young and dynamic choreographers have stepped up to enliven Boise’s dance scene.

One of them is Lydia Sakolsky-Basquill.

The 29-year-old choreographer and dancer has been quietly becoming one of the area’s most interesting and innovative movers, both as a freelance choreographer working with Ballet Idaho, Off Center Dance and Idaho Dance Theatre, and with her own Project Flux, which you can see in concert June 12 and 13 at the Esther Simplot Performing Arts Annex.

Sakolsky-Basquill approaches movement from the inside out, often using small, sharp gestures and tightly wound poses to build a visual vocabulary that runs in cycles as the dancers repeat and rewind the steps.

Her non-narrative pieces draw you in, and as she explores ideas and experiences — a hug, a random meeting or a gesture — the result invariably reveals an intriguing story about human relationships.

She uses a mix of obscure music, dialogue (one piece is set to Benedict Cumberbatch’s recitation of Simon Cleary’s “Flat of Angles” with the phrases scrambled) and with very good effect — silence.

“I have a different interest in movement,” Sakolsky-Basquill says. “I love classical, and that’s my training, but my own movement is not about what it looks like; it’s about what it feels like.”

Born in Rochester, N.Y., Sakolsky-Basquill grew up in Meridian, where her family settled when her dad retired from the Army. Her mom, Anne, a nurse and former dancer with Miami City Ballet, runs the Backstage Dance Center, where Sakolsky-Basquill teaches part time. Sakolsky-Basquill also teaches at Elevated Dance, Impulse Dance Academie and the Ballet Idaho Academy, where she runs the company’s educational outreach programs.

She knew she wanted to dance early. At 4, her mother dragged her to a ballet class when she couldn’t find a baby sitter.

“She was like, ‘You better behave,’ ” Sakolsky-Basquill remembers. “I was that kid who was like, ‘You’re not the boss of me,’ but we got to class and I was mesmerized. I knew I wanted to do that.”

She started ballet at 5.

Now, dance is Sakolsky-Basquill’s life and choreography is her focus.

She received degrees from New World School of the Arts in Miami and Arizona State University. Along the way she found teachers and mentors to support her, but it was at Summer Lee Rhatigan’s San Francisco Conservatory of Dance where she discovered Gaga, a sensory-based approach to movement developed by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin. It blends classical technique with structured improvisation that allows dancers to bring part of themselves to the movement rather than simply replicate it.

“That program changed my life,” she says.

She traded her ballet shoes for socks to better get the feel of the floor. And more importantly, she turned away from the mirror.

“I hate the mirror,” she says. “If I’m in a room with a mirror, I turn the lights off.”

That frees her from self-editing, she says, and from compromising her intuition to shoot for a visual aesthetic.

“I have this desire to make ugly things beautiful,” she says. “So, I like when it feels awkward. I like when it feels uncomfortable. I want to play with that to make that feel natural and beautiful, just like an arabesque would when you’re hitting it just right. If I see it, that makes me think instead of feel.”

Sakolsky-Basquill started Project Flux to explore these ideas. Her dancers are a mix of adult professionals — Jessica Sulikowski and Adrianne Kerr of Ballet Idaho, freelance dancers Evan Stevens and Jeremiah “Jem” Wierenga, and former TMP dancer and co-founder of Boise Dance Co-op Jason Hartley — and students she’s been working with for four years: Hunter Brewer, Barry Gans, Isabelle Machado, Selby Jenkins, Mikayla Elliott and Paige Russell.

“Because I work with youth, there are a lot of young people in my company. But I don’t consider it a youth company,” she says. “These dancers get my vocabulary. They understand what I’m trying to come up with and they’re incredible movers.”

Right now it’s a pick-up company, but she wants to develop Project Flux as a collaborative and educational venture and hopes to have her own building in the future.

She also hopes Project Flux will become a forum for other choreographers and shared projects.

“This community is too small to be competitive,” she says. “It should be collaborative.”