Dance Informa had the chance to ask Cherice and Charissa Barton some questions about their dance intensive, Axis Connect, which they answered with generosity and passion. Read on to learn about the groundbreaking bi-coastal platform they have created from the ground up.
When did Axis officially start, and what makes it different from other intensives?
“After a year-and-a-half of planning, we held our first intensive in 2016. The intensive is and has always been bi-coastal. While in past years we have encouraged people to attend both the LA and NYC portions, we are currently reconsidering that model in order to reduce our carbon footprint and positively contribute to the sustainability of the dance industry. The bi-coastal experience is an important element of the program, and we are in the early stages of finding ways to continue to expose dancers to opportunities in both NYC and LA without requiring 40-plus people to get onto an airplane and fly across the country.
We take a very broad approach that attempts to paint a holistic picture of the current dance scene. Our quest for the most current and dynamic program possible means we curate from audition day all the way through the weeks before the intensive begins, leaving certain things open ended to allow for opportunities that may arise. This mentality has opened the door for things like auditions for shows including Cats and Carousel within the program. From Alexander Ekman to Tony Testa, we provide mature dancers with a full smorgasbord. We look for dancers who share our belief that the stronger the dance community, the more we all benefit, and foster collaboration over competition. We want dancers to leave the intensive feeling empowered to carve their own path.
One of the ways we achieve our mission is by remaining sharply aware of current industry changes, challenges and opportunities, and we curate the program accordingly. As we all face changes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Axis Connect will continue to pay close attention and seek ways to meet the needs of dance artists so that as a community, we can all thrive and contribute to our ever-evolving industry.”
What’s your favorite memory from Axis?
“I had the best cry ever when I realized that Axis is something bigger than any one of us. After our very first audition in New York, which lasted four hours, everyone sat in the room together and was exceptionally present. It was a moment of pure joy, and I thought, ‘Oh my god, if this is the feeling everyone is sharing in supporting one another, if that’s what we can create more of, then it’s more than enough.”
“During our first year at Center Staging in L.A., an opportunity came up. We gathered all the dancers together to ask questions and bounce around ideas. We went out and shot ‘proof of concept’ in the parking lot, and I was reminded of how magical and fun dance can be.”
What’s your top tip for young dancers?
“On the practical side, I would love to have attended something like Axis to get a clear picture of what’s happening in the industry right now, and to hear honest commentary on it from people active in it. On the more abstract side, I urge young dancers to be empowered by the idea that their strengths and voice have inherent value. Nurture that. Your voice is unlike anybody else’s, and that’s enough. Trust that.”
“It’s okay to veer. Veering is actually building who you are right now. Axis squashes the idea that successful people are untouchable and encourages vulnerability, an attitude I unknowingly craved as a young dancer and am passionate about providing to today’s young dancers.”
For more information on Axis Connect, visit https://www.facebook.com/theaxisconnect/
By Charly Santagado of Dance Informa.