If you go
When: 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday
Where: ArtsLab, 300 E. Main St.
Admission: $22 adults, $17 seniors, $11 ages 5 and younger; tickets.artstix.org
Jordan Miller is visiting home, and she brought some friends and fancy footwork with her.
She will perform today and Saturday with Tiffany Mangulabnan and Amy Saunder, her co-founders in konverjdans. They created the company in 2016 after dancing together in New York, where they are still based.
Miller, 23, attended Project Ballet in Fort Wayne until 2011 when she moved to New York and completed high school at Professional Children's School and attended the School of American Ballet. She made her way through a variety of dance institutions including the New York City Ballet.
She says that through those programs, she learned what she liked – and what she didn't – about different approaches to dance and she was fortunate to meet other women she could create her own group with.
“So now this company is a representation of everything I've learned since I've left home, and I'm just excited to bring all of that back to the city that gave me so much before I moved away,” Miller says.
The name konverjdans, pronounced “converge dance,” is a nod to the three women coming together from different backgrounds.
While all three have classical ballet training, the styles differ based on where the women are from. Mangulabnan comes from the Philippines and Saunder is from Zimbabwe. Konverjdans brings their styles together and creates works in collaboration with varied artists.
“We realized that we never just want to create dance to create dance,” Mangulabnan says. “We want to bring in a musical voice, a composer, a visual artist, a fashion designer eventually, to bring different art forms together to create dance.”
For the local shows, the women are working with musicians and a sculptor.
Miller will debut “Cetacean Shadow,” her first piece of solo choreography with music by Silbo Gomero, comprising local musicians Hope Arthur and Kurt Roembke. Mangulabnan is also choreographing a new piece, “You Can Be Baby Too,” that will debut this weekend. A third work, “STRATA,” is a presentation of the first ballet the three women choreographed together.
Dancers from Project Ballet will open the show. To close the program, musician Dalen Wuest will perform during an improvisation piece that includes the work of Miller's mother, sculptor Heather Miller.
Konverjdans frequently performs improv pieces in New York art galleries. The dance and music is be inspired by the art, the space and the audience, Miller says. The local improv piece will be different each night, but the group doesn't go in totally blind.
“I find that it's the most effective when there's some sort of intent, maybe a narrative or something, that everyone involved understands,” Miller says about improv work. The dancers and musicians might have an outline of what kind of mood they are trying to evoke, but they avoid much dance rehearsal because they want to be fresh.
Anything they do rehearse – as much as that is possible for improv – is to get the dancers and musicians comfortable with the space, Mangulabnan says.
It isn't all improvisation work for konverjdans, which typically does one big show a year and various residencies throughout the year.
The women have been in Fort Wayne this week preparing for the shows and giving master classes at Fort Wayne Dance Collective and Project Ballet. After the local shows, they will head back to New York to present their new pieces to konverjdas' home audience before heading to Vero Beach, Florida, for a weeklong residency at the start of November.
“We've been fortunate to be very busy, which we're very excited about,” Miller says.
“But that's because we keep making ourselves busy,” Mangulabnan adds. “It's great because there's three of us, there's always something in the works.”