Artists to mix mediums for Califa Arts Collaborative

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Ballet of Austin Dancers practice “Another Veil,” choreographed by Michelle Thompson, as a part of the Califa Arts Collaborative. The organization will put on four free shows this weekend at the Austin Ventures Studio Theater on West 3rd Street.

Photo Credit: Ryan Edwards | Daily Texan Staff

Choreographers, visual artists and musicians will come together this weekend to present the second annual Califa Arts Collaborative, a free show featuring Ballet Austin dancers at the company’s theater. The show, which consists of four performances, will run twice each day on Saturday and Sunday.

Each of the pieces is a collaboration between a choreographer, an artist and a musician, along with the dancers in their show. The performances are modern, abstract pieces created specifically for the show. The idea behind Califa is to make art more accessible to the community not just through dance, but also in music and visual arts, said Michelle Thompson, choreographer for “Another Veil,” one of the four pieces.

“It’s about all of these elements coming together and creating a gift for everyone,” she said.

Last year, the show was smaller and the dynamic of the creative process was much less communal. Held at the Austin Ventures Studio Theater at Ballet Austin this year, the space is much larger than the Salvage Vanguard Theater, where it was held last year.

“It has been different because last year the components were already created,” said Caroline Wright, an artist in the show.

The choreographer came up with a concept, then chose previously composed music and art to accompany their vision.

“So really we had all of the ingredients and just put them together for the show,” Wright said.

This time, Califa truly is a collaboration with local artists working side-by-side to create a cohesive, original creation, Thompson said.

The creative team for each piece created their artistic elements together, their collective visions intertwining.

“There have been some challenges and happy accidents as we go through the process,” Wright said.

The music, dance and some of the visual art will be performed live during the shows, so there is an element of unpredictability for the viewer.

Wright said the collaborative was an opportunity for the artists to push themselves and be creative in ways they aren’t used to. For some artists, working out of their comfort zones meant learning a new art form.

“This is beyond what any of us are used to,” Thompson said. “But there isn’t pressure to create a full-length Swan Lake or something.”

One of the numbers featured is “Joy in Ruins.” Choreographed by Reginald Harris and a collaboration with gypsy folk band Wino Vino and artist Cynthia Mooney, the performance is inspired by the power of wild and whimsical music to break the mold of classically trained dancers. The lively music and lighthearted dance will be matched by Mooney’s large-scale installation pieces to create a rousing and intoxicating performance.

Ending the show will be the interactive performance, “Another Veil.” Set to the music by Bob Hoffnar, the piece was inspired by the ways in which people hide their true selves behind protective emotional armor. Wright will paint the dancers as they move through choreography.

“Sometimes I see it as a continuation of that armor,” Thompson said. “But then I also see [the paint] revealing what’s raw, what’s inside.”

Wright was inspired by the correlation of dancer and choreographer to a painter and canvas. To Wright, dancers are live canvases.

“It becomes almost like a narrative of an artist in the studio, making something and then allowing that thing to have its own life and responding,” she said. “The way the dancers move is painting and I’m sort of adding to them.”