Budding, Not Yet Blooming: Alight Dance Theater

By Tara Sheena of Dance Informa.

It is sometimes hard for choreographers to break out of the Los Angeles/New York hold, as if dance only happened in those two locales. Angella Foster’s Maryland-based Alight Dance Theater brings quality contemporary dance outside of the city stronghold.

In this interview, she talks with Dance Informa about early influences, developing community and how she aspires to keep developing her work.

What originally drew you to choreography? Do you have any early influences you can recall?

“Ever since I can remember, I’ve had three passions: movement, fabric and story. As a choreographer, I work in all these mediums at once, which gives me great joy. As a child, I loved to run, dance, climb trees and explore, so I guess I never grew out of that desire to move freely, purposefully, expressively. Although dance is my primary medium, I consider myself a storyteller, and my earliest influence would be my mother who wrote children’s stories and poems and always had a story to tell. And, her death when I was 14 has been a central event in my story, which continues to inform my work.”

How would you describe your aesthetic and style to someone who has never seen your work?

“As a storyteller, I am interested in dance as total theater as well as the meaning of movement within a given context. Consequently, my work usually employs multiple elements of theater, including dance, physical theater, live music, designed sound score, theatrical lighting and often spoken text. Creating a complete world unique to each piece is important to me, and I think that is communicated to Alight’s audiences.

Alight Dance Theater in Truth Be Told

Alight Dance Theater presents the 2011 piece “Truth Be Told.” Photo by Enoch Chan.

Stylistically, I am partial to long lines, sweeping full-bodied movement and dynamic gesture; I think my movement could be characterized as expansive. Ultimately, I try to make work that hits people at a heart level and serves a communicative purpose.”

What, in your opinion, is the biggest challenge for emerging choreographers right now? What are the strategies you’ve employed to navigate that challenge?

“Well, honestly, I think the biggest challenge is finding a community that will support emerging artists beyond their early years of exploration. In my experience, the contemporary world suffers from an obsession with novelty. It is feasible to garner support for your work starting out, but it is much more challenging to build a sustainable organizational structure (or just personal life circumstances) which will afford you opportunity to experiment and grow as an artist over time. 

I founded Alight Dance Theater in 2010 in hopes of establishing an organization in which myself and others could make work in conversation with the surrounding community. By being intentional about our service to the community, we hope that our community will in turn support the development of our work over time.”

What are the next steps for you and your company?

“Right now, we’re wrapping up our 2013-14 season with our Dance in the Garden Performance Series. We’ll be performing in the garden outside of the Greenbelt Community Center in our home community [in Greenbelt, Maryland]. After that, we take a short summer break before returning the studio to pull together the premiere of Frontline for shows in August and October. Frontline was commissioned by the Anacostia Trails Heritage Area/Maryland Milestones in observation of Maryland’s War of 1812 commemoration this year. The work tells the story of women living in the Washington D.C. area during the time and how the war shaped their identities.”

For more information on Alight Dance Theater, visit

Photo (top): Alight Dance Theater performs the 2013 piece Stargazing. Photo by Brian Allard.  

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