By Tara Sheena.
Like many dancers with aspirations to perform professionally, Catherine Coury moved to New York City after graduating from the University of Michigan in May 2010. A woman who wears many hats, she is currently the Development Associate for Gallim Dance, founded by Artistic Director Andrea Miller, as well as Director of Development for the Playground, co-founded by Loni Landon and Gregory Dolbashian. However, her distinct performing talents are reserved for her work with Amanda Selwyn Dance Theatre (ASDT). The New York-based company will be celebrating their twelfth New York performance season at New York Live Arts later this month.
A lean, compact dancer with a remarkably lyrical presence, Coury honed her training in Michigan dancing with the Mack Avenue Dance Company at a young age and moved on to dance the works of Paul Taylor and Laura Dean while in college. Since moving to New York, she has enjoyed working with Darcy Naganuma and Spark(edIt) Arts, among others, but has found a singular home with ASDT.
Coury has come full circle with the company, serving as an apprentice for last year’s New York Live Arts season and joining as a fulltime company member this past fall. Attracted to the welcoming energy and group dynamic of the company, Coury considered her transition into a fulltime member as a seamless progression. Of her involvement with the company, she notes, “[the] support and positivity can be felt and seen embedded into Amanda’s work.”
A large aspect of ASDT, Coury explains, is collaboration. All of the artists involved with the company, from scenic designers to composers to dancers, serve the creative process on an equal level. She explains that every role is seen as essential to the success of the company. “Witnessing the progressive stages of lighting, costume, and design is exciting—to watch how they too evolve and refine with the shape of the dance,” she says. “To see the sketches and the blueprints, to hear ideas bounce off of one another—I like that!” Coury makes it clear that all of the artists collaborate and all of their efforts are easily seen in the final work.
Because of this all-parts-equal brand of creating, she describes rehearsals as being a very fast-paced environment, forcing her to think on her feet and trust her instincts. “Amanda has made me more appreciative of following my gut instinct rather than psychoanalyzing every tiny gesture – to not judge, just act,” Coury states. When developing the choreography, the dancers pass along movement to one another until they get different variations. Like the childhood game of telephone, these variations keep getting passed along until they reach an endpoint that fulfills the particular concept of the piece.
This season, these variations of movement will come together in Detour, an evening-length work for the entire company. Detour examines what it means to subvert any chosen path; as Coury puts it, an exploration of the “roundabout way to get us to where we’ve always been going.” Coury explains that the company has abstracted the role of a detour into something personal for each of them, and cites a duet she has with fellow dancer, Robert Vail, as an example. In their duet, titled Reflect, they act as mirror images of each other. Exploring questions like, “what does it mean to look at yourself in the mirror?” and “how do you interact with that reflection?” propels this physical, dynamic duet to display their personal reactions to these prompts.
It is clear that the performers of ASDT are a tightknit community of talented artists. This creative energy is reflected in the dancers’ outside endeavors as well. In a company of seven, five of the performers are currently pursuing their own choreographic projects and maintain their own work outside of dancing for ASDT. Coury notes that the sense of community and distinct theatricality is something that is noticeable in everyone’s work, both inside the company and out.
This camaraderie will undoubtedly come through later this month at New York Live Arts, where Coury and the other dancers of ASDT are excited to present the work in its entirety for the first time.
Amanda Selwyn – Detour
Jun 21 – 23
New York Live Arts
Dancers: Alexander Dones and Catherine Coury at the Amanda Selwyn Detour preview at Dixon Place. Photo by Christopher Duggan