Think of “Loose Leaves” as the Tosco Music Party of dance. You pay a modest $12 admission, and Salena Mable Stamp pulls together a dance program of anything under the sun. Modern dance. Hip-hop. Jazz. Belly dance. Afro-Russe. Anything where the feet glide, hips swivel and fingers curl.
But there’s a key difference: She doesn’t turn anybody down. Ever.
“I’m not endorsing things by presenting them,” said the dancer-choreographer. “I do no gatekeeping. I don’t censor you. I think it’s important for whoever has an idea to bring it.
“I have made pieces that are good and pieces that are terrible. I have shown pieces I personally did not like – although audiences may like things dancers do not. But the pieces are so short that it’s not a huge risk. Every audience member will love something and hate something in the same show.”
You’ll see what she means March 4-5 at Duke Energy Theater, where her sixth showcase begins at 8 p.m. She’s especially proud that fewer than half the choreographers will be white: “My showcases are one of the few places in town where both the audience (and performers) are racially diverse.”
This democrat of dance began as a youthful ballet student, then learned about modern works at Bard College. She came across the open-to-all idea in 2011 in Philadelphia, where she premiered her first piece at an uncurated festival.
Stamp, 30, does not think conventionally. She moved to Charlotte with her husband (now an architect), her twin sister and the sister’s fiancé, all on the strength of her sister’s job as a marketing executive. They inhabited the same house, adding a close friend to the mix, and Stamp danced with Triptych Collective and Taproot Ensemble.
She did her first Loose Leaves in 2013, relying partly on family to make things happen. Sister Kassandra Braun’s stage management background comes in handy. Her fiancé, Dick Costa, works in photography and graphic design and shoots art, giving it to choreographers after the event. Stamp’s husband, Davin, “gets catering trays and makes sure I don’t forget to eat. I couldn’t do this without them.”
The event’s threefold name comes from the idea of multiple leaves on a tree, loose-leaf paper (where we jot down creative ideas) and loose-leaf tea, a symbol of things brewing – in this case, art. Though Stamp asks choreographers to send videos of their work with their $20 application fee, she watches those only to figure out how to order the program. Evenings last 90 minutes with an intermission and offer about a dozen pieces.
Some are funny, some serious. Previous installments have had live drumming, piano, spoken word. Many works are experimental: Her own “We’re All Nuts!” consisted mainly of her trying clothes on a friend, while another segment depicted neighbors who lived on a stool and a ladder and got into a fight with umbrellas.
Few last even 10 minutes. “I find most dance to be too long,” she says, smiling. “Dancers have a longer attention span for their work than audiences do, and you have to meet the audiences where they are. These shows work best when choreographers have one really good idea.”
When: March 4-5 at 8 p.m.
Where: Duke Energy Theater, Spirit Square, 345 N. College St.
What: Short works by The Cultural Ensemble, Elizabeth Witham, Fallon McKeon, Julia Shockley, Loren Fletcher, Mayela World Dance, MufukaWorks Dance Co., Sarah Beth Gualtieri, Surya Swilley, and Tierra Foxworth.
Running time: Roughly 90 minutes plus an intermission.
Details: 704-372-1000; www.blumenthalarts.org.
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