Dancing Through Time 

Motus Dance Theater's Chemical Peel takes a new look at the company's history

click to enlarge From the Motus performance "Pairings" - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • From the Motus performance "Pairings"
  • Submitted photo

When Heidi Keller-Phillips, executive director of Motus Dance Theatre, was dancing in the company's first-ever show, she was pregnant. Ten years later, she has a 9-year-old son and is celebrating one decade of Motus. In its upcoming production, Chemical Peel, the company takes a retrospective look at the past 10 years by giving "facelifts to old favorites."

One of the first pieces Keller-Phillips choreographed for the company, Pardon My Partum, is among those set to be reimagined.

"The piece was about my experience being pregnant. It happened at the Wheeler, during one of their open houses. Back then we didn't have First Fridays," recalls Keller-Phillips.

Motus dancers are taking old themes and applying new choreography to some of their past favorites, in some cases with new music and completely new staging.

"The program [for the show] will be a timeline," says Keller-Phillips. "The top will show where the original piece falls in our history, and the bottom will show the order of the program and how it corresponds to our history."

Of the 15 pieces, 13 are inspired by the Motus archives. Two will be brand new.

"I poured through our DVDs and videos," says Keller-Phillips on how she juried her selection. "I wanted to find at least one piece from each year that we've been in existence. But we also have some new artists, who I wanted to have a voice in the piece. They are doing Motus present day."

For her part, Keller-Phillips is reinventing a piece created for Motus' first performance by co-founder Katie Kasper: La Fointaine.

"It was an homage to [Kasper's] kind of second mother, who has now passed. Her son had gone off to serve in Iraq. It was a piece about women who have ... significant others serving and was set in older more classical times. The music was very different from what I've chosen, but I've still kept the same concept and same theme. It now has a new title: Homefront."

As she reviews the past, Keller-Phillips also looks to the future. In her view, the company is in constant flux.

"We are on the path of redefining ourselves," says Keller-Phillips. "We definitely have learned that we are not a traditional dance company. We're a collective. We all have different voices and different styles. We support each other."

In the future, Keller-Phillips hopes Motus will take an active role in building a more communal atmosphere for all dancers and dance companies in Indianapolis.

"I wonder if we are well funded at some point, if we could take on projects that are not only our own—getting other voices seen and heard and felt on stage. Motus should be really present and part of building the dance community here and building bridges between the dance organizations that already exist. We want to get rid of any feelings of competition and say we are on the same team. Let's come together to make this dance community awesome. That is where I see Motus."

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