I’ve been a fan of Go! Contemporary Dance Works via free performances I’ve run into over the years. One of my favorite encounters included an unexpected performance outside the French Market a couple of years ago. Always creative, colorful and challenging, the company has created quite a reputation.
Who they are is best summed up via their website,
“GO! Contemporary Dance Works is a non-profit dance company in Knoxville, Tennessee. Founded in 2003 by its’ current artistic director, Lisa Hall McKee, GO!’s mission is to elevate enthusiasm for the performing arts within the East Tennessee community by providing opportunities for youth to express artistry through dance. GO! is known for it’s daring, innovative and adventurous choreography that merges and defies the boundaries of classical ballet, contemporary and aerial dance. Delivering thought provoking and intellectual performances to the Knoxville area, GO! challenges its audience with both subject matter and choreography. Appealing to more than the average dance go-er, GO!’s elaborate and adventurous performances are uplifting and intriguing, surpassing all expectations of its’ audience. GO! consists of 45 dancers age 12 through professional.”
They also work with the Knoxville Symphony, Rossini, the Knox Country schools and more. “GO! is also proud to partner with other non-profit organizations such as the Volunteer Rotary Club, the Lighthouse, the Boys and Girls Club, the YMCA, and Emerald Youth Foundation.”
Lisa Hall McKee is also principal choreographer, which puts her talents front-and-center with the group. She’s a UT graduate in the college of communications and she has studied classical ballet, jazz and modern dance. She’s danced in venues across the country and started her own dance studio in 1991. In subsequent years many of her students have been accepted to the most prestigious dance academies in the world.
She also founded Go! and her mark was certainly evident on the performance of “Tata Ajache: Warrior Princess” that Urban Girl, Urban Woman and I attended recently at the Bijou. Clearly the talented dancers and drummers made the execution of the show possible, but the choreography for each of the scenes was often extremely complex. We discussed how difficult it would be to imagine each of those scenes with choreography and then move the image from your own brain into that of the dancers. To choreograph one scene would seem complex enough to take months. And they don’t have months.
The story of Tata Ajache is a true one, though much is unknown. Taken as a slave at age ten by female warrior, she was taken to their kingdom as a slave. Later she became one of the warriors, which was an honor, elevating her status considerably. Eventually falling in love with the King, she became queen of the people who had enslaved her. It’s a complex tale covered in two acts with four and three scenes respectively. The obstacle of telling the story without words must also be daunting, though even without having the narrative provided, the bones of the story would be clear.
The production established itself as different from the beginning from many other dance performances as African drums, led by guest artist Obayana Ajanaku, exploded over the sound system and dancers filled the auditorium in all aisles. I’ve mentioned the choreography which was extremely complex and amazingly narrative, but the costuming also deserves mention for its rich beauty. Like the recent production of Carmen I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, the visual production was enough to deserve the price of the ticket. The dancing, led by Madison Tate as Tata Ajache seemed to my novice eyes to be virtually flawless.
The company performed “Peter and the Wolf” with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra last night at the Tennessee Theatre. Your next chance to see them in action will be this Sunday as they appear as guests artists for the Knoxville Symphony Chamber Orchestra’s presentation of “Appalachian Spring Ballet” at the Bijou. As they’ve done in previous years, they will also perform at the Rosinni Festival April 25. Make a chance to see them. I promise you will be very impressed and will agree that Go! Contemporary Dance is another Knoxville cultural treasure.