Arts July 28, 2008


Dance Theatre

The stage is set. Lights dim. The music begins. Dancers appear. Yet we find ourselves not in a theatre, but in an airplane hangar—a venue whose very uniqueness appropriately reflects that of the night’s performers—Core Dance Theatre, the Valley’s only professional dance company.

The idea of the company was spawned around 2000 in discussions between Anna Johnson, a Wood River transplant, and Wood River native Julie Fox-Jones. Johnson had been wanting to start a movement group and Fox-Jones had begun doing a lot of improvisation, master classes and intensive workshops. Another person very involved with the creation of this was Heather Hanson. Described by Fox-Jones as a visionary, Hanson had just returned from Japan where she studied and performed Butoh, a contemporary dance that originated in post-World War II Japan. Alison Higdon joined the company in its earliest stages, as well. Through the collaboration of these individuals, and eventually others, the Core Dance Theatre became a reality. And while this company has had a changing cast of performers and creators, it has had a single vision—to tell a story through movement and to engage the people of the community as participants in the dance itself. Core originally offered jam sessions in creative movement at Innerflo. The space was donated by Nanette Cresto.

The first performances of the group spun off from this. They were improvisational performances at Ketch’em Alive. Then the group began to present small studio pieces in Hanson’s space, a warehouse in Ketchum’s industrial area. The company performed its first major choreographed piece in the Gail Severn Gallery. “Ellipse” was a dance exploring the seven chakras.

Proceeds from the performance benefited The Advocates, an organization that helps abused women and their children.

“Fugue” was presented next, staged in an airplane hangar, a donated space. Core donated proceeds from this performance to the building of a school in Pakistan, through the Central Asia Institute.

The changing cast came to include others, including dancers Lisa Snickers, Anne Winton, Jessica Humphreys, and Alysha Oclassen, as well as Shayne Maratea (who recently left the Valley to attend circus school in aerial dance and trapeze). The performances also came to involve a whole crew of other performance artists as well, such as singer and dancer Amy Clifford; space designer Ronn Reinberg; and sound mixer Johnny V.

The current performance piece is inspired by a recording of Carl Sandberg reading his work “How to Tell Corn Fairies if You See ‘Em.” Fox-Jones grew up hearing this recording on an LP and has wanted to perform it as an illustrated story since she was in college. This movement and prop-filled story was developed with children in mind. The company hopes to take the show into the schools in the winter of 2007.

The performances in general are designed as multimedia presentations. They tell a story through movement, props and sound. They involve film, poets, singers and dancers. The dances address issues relevant to people everywhere—interior issues, women’s issues, children and education. The goal of Core has been to present these stories in a way that people will feel deeply. They are accomplishing that goal. One member of the audience said to Fox-Jones many days after a performance, “I’ve been thinking about your piece since I left the theatre.”

The company’s next dance performance will be a reunion piece—bringing together the members of the company that have performed with one another in the past. That is fitting, since from its beginning the Core Dance Theatre has been a product of collaboration, shared inspiration and a connected cast of contributors.


This article appears in the Winter 2007 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.