Local Choreographers Shine with "Voices of SCD"



Sarasota Contemporary Dance celebrates the rising choreographers within its own ranks with its upcoming production, Voices of SCD, running from December 6 through December 9 in the Cook Theatre of the FSU Center for the Performing Arts. An annual affair, Voices has for the last five years provided a platform for up-and-coming choreographers to showcase their skills during SCD’s main stage season, but this year brings an additional local flair—all selected choreographers come from SCD itself.

It’s an amazing opportunity, says Melissa Coleman Sperber, dancer and general manager for SCD, as well as one of this year’s five chosen choreographers, joining SCD Resident Choreographer Erin Fletcher and SCD dancers Charlotte Johnson, Rachel Lambright and Claudia Lynn-Rightmire. Most companies, Sperber says, only perform the work of the artistic director, and dancers spend all year dedicating themselves to learning someone else’s style. “And there’s not opportunity for the dancers to create,” she says. Through Voices, SCD and Artistic Director Leymis Bolaños Wilmott not only encourage the dancers to explore their own choreography, but offer the chance to produce it mid-season on the main stage, with a professional company behind it.

Still, this will be the first year that all choreographers taking part come from SCD itself. Chosen by a panel of experts from outside the SCD organization, participants are selected after taking part in the company’s annual summer intensive program, which sees artists coming from all over. Over the course of the intensive, these dancemakers hone their craft and compose new works, presenting them to the panel in a culminating performance entitled In the Round. Then the panel selects the most promising works, regardless of origin, and those move on to be given a full production in next season’s Voices.

Sperber will present a piece titled Threshold, a name ripe with meaning, knowing its creator’s unabashed mission to explore and encourage female empowerment through her work—“No matter what”—and celebrate the community where women support women. “That allows the female spirit to continue to grow and push boundaries,” Sperber says. And so she also asks much of her dancers’ athleticism, crafting movements as unexpected as they are powerful. “Just breaking the myth that being strong is male,” she says, and it comes as no surprise when she admits to finding influence for Threshold even in that famous pose from Rosie the Riveter.

“Anyone that comes to this show is just going to be impressed by what the body can do,” she says.

Voices of SCD opens December 6 at the Cook Theatre at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts and runs through December 9.

Pictured: Melissa Coleman Sperber in flight. Photo by Sorcha Augustine.

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