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DoubleTake Dance focuses on choreographic diversity

By Laura Di Orio.

Ashley Carter probably chose the name DoubleTake for a reason. At first glance, it’s another dance company. Looking deeper into it, though, DoubleTake (DT) Dance Company is a rare fusion of different dancers and genres of dance, with each work being completely different from the next and each with a strong message. The company’s repertory includes works that are tango, theater, jazz, contemporary, tap and neoclassical, a range that may be standard for large companies but less prevalent among smaller dance companies.

Co-directors Carter and Vanessa Martinez de Baños built New York City-based DT from scratch when Martinez de Baños saw something in Carter and encouraged her to start teaching and choreographing. From there, other companies began to ask Carter to choreograph on them, and after a while she just started submitting work under her own name and came to find she was getting a good response.

DT as a company and name was born in 2010 and since then has continued to grow. The company performed at NYC’s SummerStage last year and continuously performs throughout NYC festivals and venues, and has even performed in Madrid. Carter and Martinez de Baños only hope that their joint hard work can take them further.

“I never really planned to have my own company,” Carter says. “It’s something I sort of fell into. And I’m really glad I didn’t try to do it alone. It’s hard enough with two of us!”

Carter and Martinez de Baños come from entirely different dance backgrounds. Carter, primarily New York-trained, has performed with companies and artists ranging from Pilobolus to Nicki Minaj. She enjoys doing artistic company work but has also had the chance to dance in music videos, commercials and industrials for brands such as Nike, Lush, Microsoft and Nokia. Carter has also taught at such renowned dance studios as Broadway Dance Center, Steps, Ballet Arts and Lines, and for the past few years has successfully maintained her own contemporary jazz class at Peridance. As a choreographer, Carter has created work for a FuseTV commercial incorporating pop and breakdance and also for a sci-fi movie that required modern and contemporary.

DoubleTake Dance

DoubleTake Dance Company dancers, including co-directors Vanessa Martinez de Baños (center) and Ashley Carter (right), in performance. Photo by Stephanie Crousillat.

“It’s the huge range of work that prevents me from ever getting bored and it challenges me every day,” Carter says. “The variety is something that I also try to bring to DoubleTake Dance.”

Martinez de Baños, on the other hand, was born in Madrid, Spain, and began her career as an actress, which led into musical theatre and then a love for dance. She moved to NYC after receiving a scholarship from the Spanish Ministry of Culture. Martinez de Baños has danced for many choreographers, including Guillem Alonso, Lynn Schwab and Ryan Beck, and has choreographed for musical theatre and contemporary companies. She has also taught master classes both nationally and internationally.

Like Carter, Martinez de Baños strives to continue to learn and push herself further. “I’m passionate about my job and nourish every opportunity that comes my way,” she says. “I try to do as much as I can, which makes me versatile and stops me from ever getting bored.”

The variety of Carter and Martinez de Baños’ background has clearly fueled the direction of DT. The repertory has a wide range, and the company’s dancers, although all athletic, technical and musical, tend to be very different in terms of their strengths, body type and dance background.

“One of our main goals as a company is to create each new piece of work to be as different as possible from the rest of our rep,” Carter says. “We also try to use different ideas for props or costumes or influences to make the pieces meaningful.”

Last summer at SummerStage, DT premiered a piece that Carter calls an “experiment,” where they fused sign language with contemporary dance and used those movements to tell the story of how it feels to be an outsider. The company’s latest piece, Shirt Off My Back, is a work that utilizes the company’s technical strength and floor work to express homelessness and how the community of relatively “privileged” people responds and reacts to it. Carter and Martinez de Baños even gave their dancers a “homework assignment” – food to hand out to people in need as they came across them on their daily commutes. Carter says this was to “both help out and help our dancers understand the emotional connection to the story.”

DoubleTake Dance Company

DoubleTake Dance co-director Vanessa Martinez de Baños. Photo by Olivia Alvarez.

This broad spectrum of repertory not only makes DT unique as a small company, but it also helps set them apart in a place like NYC, where there is a sea of dance companies.

Remaining afloat in NYC remains to be difficult for almost any small dance company, but Carter and Martinez de Baños keep their standards high and the dancers’ priorities up front.

“Being able to always pay our dancers is challenging,” Martinez de Baños explains. “In a business where the new trend is to pay to perform instead of the opposite, it’s hard to stay afloat and do the right thing. We believe in the art, we believe in our dancers and respect their time and talent, therefore we always compensate them. We never pay to perform, unless renting a theater, and we don’t perform or rehearse in places that are not appropriate for dance.”

Carter adds to that list of challenges: the scheduling, and the technical, administrative, financial and logistical details.

Still, however, amidst these stresses there are rewards. “Watching our finished products is always rewarding,” Martinez de Baños says. “And seeing how our audience is moved, especially when they aren’t dancers. SummerStage is an example. When you see that hundreds of people decide to stay and watch despite a violent thunderstorm approaching, you know you must be doing something right.”

Next up for DT is a split-bill showing on April 19 at NYC’s Secret Theatre, where the company will present 40 minutes of rep. Further down the road, Carter says she hopes DT will continue doing what they’re doing, but bigger and better.

Martinez de Baños agrees. “We hope to get more people to know and fund us,” she says. “We have some projects in mind that can’t be accomplished without funds, so hopefully one day… And maybe have a place and not have to pay rental space. We would love to offer free classes to our dancers.”

For more information on DoubleTake Dance or to show support to their next venture, head to www.doubletakedanceco.com.

Photo (top): DoubleTake Dance in performance. Photo by Maverick Sean Photography.

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