The Journal Gazette
Friday, August 13, 2021 1:00 am

Emotions put into dance for "Collective Expressions"

COREY MCMAKEN | The Journal Gazette

One of the pieces Hannah Moore choreographed for Fort Wayne Dance Collective's “Collective Expressions” this weekend will be performed on her kitchen table.

Yes, her actual kitchen table, though the audience will be in Arts United Center, not her home. It took a team of people and a U-Haul truck to get the table to Dance Collective's studios on East Berry Street for rehearsals, that's how committed she was to using it in the piece, she says with a laugh.

“Adrift/April” represents her sentiments of April 2020 and the “waiting phase” when most of her time was spent sitting at her kitchen table teaching virtually, doing homework and thinking. The solo piece is set on another dancer who is confined to the small space of a tabletop instead of using the whole stage.

“This dance portrays what that felt like to me and that feeling of being adrift,” she says. “Even though we were in isolation and really sedentary, my feelings and my thoughts were constantly spinning and rotating.”

“Collective Expressions” features 18 pieces, and while not all of them are linked to the pandemic, the emotions stirred up during these uncertain times will be felt during performances Saturday and Sunday. Running about 90 minutes, the show features members of Dance Collective's professional touring company and its youth company, the Pineapple Dance Project.

Everyone will be able to connect to the works, says Moore, a member of the professional company since 2018.

She also co-choreographed “I Think About You All the Time” with Corinne Hobbs who will dance it with her. Local singer Addison Agen and Moore's Boston-based sister, Zoe Moore, will provide vocals with Mike Gronsky on guitar.

Moore and Hobbs start the dance isolated in their own blocks of light, but are then able to interact finally in the second half of the piece.

Moore says she is a very touch-oriented person because dancers have to be aware of their surroundings and their bodies.

“So for dancers to be stuck in their bedrooms the past year and not getting a studio space or not getting to have contact movement where you're partnering with someone, it led to identity crisis in a way because we were so used to having this communal space of sharing our art together and suddenly it was closed off,” she says.

One of the goals for any artist is relatability, and artistic director Mandie Kolkman says the “Collective Expressions” choreographers are taking human emotion and putting them into performance art.

In addition to directing “Collective Expressions,” Kolkman will dance in four of the pieces and has choreographed two others.

One of her works, titled “Fish Bowl,” is a reaction to her time as an artist during the pandemic when she was missing real-time connections. She was posting dance and workout videos, and there were people commenting on her body.

“It just felt like everybody could see in, but I couldn't see them and it really felt very isolating,” she says.

It left her feeling like she was in a fish bowl, hence the name of the piece where dancers are separated in Zoom squares facing away from the audience and don't realize there are other dancers or an audience for most of the piece.

The pandemic has been a spectrum, Kolkman says, and the COVID-inspired sections of the “Collective Expressions” will reflect that. While some stories might be sad, others show that dancers had time to slow down, explore nature or get married.

Besides the pandemic, Moore says other themes explored in pieces this weekend include the Black Lives Matter movement and issues affecting the LGBTQ community. She is excited for audiences to see an all-male piece choreographed by Ashley Benninghoff based on those topics.

Men are usually used as the counterpart to women in dance, so a piece featuring only men as they somersault and throw each other around isn't something audiences get to see often, Moore says.

The heart of “Collective Expressions” is right in the title, she says. It's a collection of stories told by dancers with an array of backgrounds.

“It's such a range of people and diversity that I feel that everyone can find themselves in the cast,” Moore says.

If you go

What: “Collective Expressions,” Fort Wayne Dance Collective

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: Arts United Center, 303 E. Main St.

Admission: $17; ArtsTix Community Box Office in Arts United Center, 422-4226 or

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