Seventeen years ago, Donna Jacobs, the Artistic Director of Full Circle Dance Company and Director of Morton Street Dance, created the FCDC to give teachers at an opportunity to perform. Later that year, the company was chosen to perform in a showcase at Broadway Dance Center in New York. Now, almost two decades later, the Baltimore-based dance company has developed into a force to be reckoned with–and this weekend, audiences will have a chance to see them show their stuff at the Chesapeake Center for the arts.
The company usually comprises 16 or 17 dancers, each of whom brings a diverse range of experience to the table. The performers range from 17 to 50 years old, and while some dancers stay in the artistic field teaching full-time, others pursue professions of law and medicine.
Instead of viewing dance on solely an aesthetic level, Full Circle Dance Company considers how best to engage the audience in an important concept. According to Jacobs, the pieces are aimed to make the audience “question themselves, question their own thinking, and question biases.”
But it’s not just the audience who must undergo this questioning–the dancers themselves are also challenged with this task. As Jacobs says, “(the process) causes a great deal of introspection and dialogue with the dancers. In order to do it well you have to get to a place of honesty with yourself about what it is you are speaking with your body.”
Each year, the dancers and choreographers work together to select a theme. Liz Pelton, Associate Artistic Director of Full Circle Dance Company, explains: “(The theme) is usually a topic that has some relevance to contemporary affairs and has a lot of emotion and sometimes conflict behind it.” At the end of each year, they present a concert of works that have been developed independently, but are united by the theme.
To help begin a productive discussion, the company welcomes input from non-dancers and often partners with other groups in Baltimore. In 2015, they partnered with the Baltimore City Cancer Program and their Breast Cancer Support Group to produce a work that explored the stories of cancer survivors. The partnership included workshops and discussions, and the work was then based upon the women and their experiences. Although the process was challenging, their work resulted in a powerful presentation of dance, Pelton says. “Sometimes engaging with dance is a new way of engaging with these issues that are complicated and emotional and difficult. Sometimes dance can bring a new perspective to a general audience.”
In the past, themes have included race, religion, and body image. This year the concert is called Unshamed: Baring Our Secrets and Our Souls, and will benefit the Bridge Program, a domestic violence intervention program that seeks to break the cycle of violence in Baltimore City and its surrounding counties. The keynote will be a piece from Jacobs herself, who is both a dancer and a public health worker, that seeks to tell the stories of real-life victims of violence. Other choreographers will explore secrecy in some of its other forms, including colorism and discrimination, the difference between inner selves and outer actions, and folk tales in which female characters are secretly animals.
As Pelton says, “if you tell 5 choreographers to explore one theme, you’ll get a big variety. This makes a really interesting experience for the audience!”
Full Circle Dance Company will perform at the Chesapeake Center for the Arts on November 4th and 5th.