Keep On Turning: New Artistic Director Marc Brew's Big Plans for AXIS Dance Company
Now in its 30th year, AXIS Dance Company, the pioneering physically integrated troupe in Oakland, California, is celebrating with a new artistic director, a new logo and expanded ambitions.
Australia-born Marc Brew, 40, took the helm this spring. A dancer, choreographer and filmmaker, Brew trained at The Australian Ballet School and was a 20-year-old professional dancer when he was paralyzed from the chest down in a car accident. He went on to form the Marc Brew Company and choreograph internationally; he made Full of Words, his well-received first AXIS work, in 2011.
"Marc knows the non-disabled dance world and the disabled dance world," says AXIS co-founder Judith Smith, who served as artistic director since 1997 and will continue in a new role as director, focusing on development and national advocacy. "Those qualities don't come along in a package very often, especially at the artistic level that Marc operates at."
Marc Brew. Photo by Ruth Mills, Courtesy AXIS.
Expanding artists' horizons is among Brew's top priorities. "Historically, disabled dancers came into dance through improvisation and contact work, because it wasn't about having to make specific shapes or techniques from an able-bodied version," he explains. "But disabled dancers want to learn what is ballet terminology, what is Cunningham terminology, and how does it apply to my body?" Brew also hopes to put AXIS on the international map with a possible 2018 UK tour and a collaboration with Australia's Expressions Dance Company.
Along with creating and commissioning original works, going forward AXIS will spearhead more public outreach and training for disabled dancers, choreographers and teachers. And after an October 26–29 home season in Oakland, the company will make its way to New York City for a November residency at Gibney Dance, which includes a choreography intensive, master classes, town halls, teacher workshops and a performance series.
What happens during a performance is the product of the painstaking process of realizing an artistic vision. Whether held beforehand, afterward, offsite or online, audience discussions tend not to be so preordained, easily thrown off track without a skilled moderator at the helm.
"I'm someone who dreaded talkbacks and Q&As," admits Bill Bragin, former director of public programming at Lincoln Center. "While I was in New York, a lot of the time it was just audience members trying to show off how smart they were."
These events present a pile of difficult questions: How much do you reveal about a piece before it's shown? How can a conversation designed to hit key points feel casual and spontaneous? How do you cater to the needs of diverse attendees, from novice dancegoers to lifelong fans to scholars and critics? And how do you avoid smothering dance with language, flattening all its complexity?
If you think becoming a trainee or apprentice is the only path to gaining experience in a dance company environment, think again.
The University of Arizona, located in the heart of Tucson, acclimates dancers to the pace and rigor of company life while offering all the academic opportunities of a globally-ranked university. If you're looking to get a head-start on your professional dance career—or to just have a college experience that balances company-level training and repertory with rigorous academics—the University of Arizona's undergraduate and graduate programs have myriad opportunites to offer:
Yes, we realize it's only August. But we can't help but to already be musing about all the incredible dance happenings of 2019.
We're getting ready for our annual Readers' Choice feature, and we want to hear from you about the shows you can't stop thinking about, the dance videos that blew your mind and the artists you discovered this year who everyone should know about.
I dance to encourage others. The longer I dance, the more I see that much of my real work is to speak life-giving words to my fellow artists. This is a multidimensionally grueling profession. I count it a privilege to remind my colleagues of how they are bringing beauty into the world through their craft. I recently noticed significant artistic growth in a fellow dancer, and when I verbalized what I saw, he beamed. The impact of positive feedback is deeper than we realize.