Dance can tell a story without using words. Dance can evoke feelings that have long been shut away. Dance can do so many things all through body movements. The best part about dance is— you can find it right here in Fort Wayne. Elizabeth Mikautadze, a professor at IPFW, started her company in 2008 to fulfill her dream of collaborating with a company of artists through dance. The Mikautadze Dance Theatre (MDT) performs primarily modern and contemporary pieces. The dancers in the company have a strong knowledge of ballet in order to help with their technique, and most have taken other types of dance classes or yoga.
Tracy Tritz, the assistant rehearsal director, is a principal dancer in the company along with Emily Keisler. Tracy joined the company at its beginning in 2008, and Emily joined later in 2009. The dance troupe has continued to grow with more dancers and apprentices, while Elizabeth’s husband, David Mikautadze, records and composes all the music for the theatre.
In May the company performed their spring show, Abstractions in Motion, at Williams Theatre. The show consisted of 7 choreographed pieces and 2 musical transitions. The main goal of the company is to produce work that is a culmination of multiple art forms. This goal was achieved in Abstractions in Motion, which featured physical artwork as part of the set and a poem by Michael Rhoades.
MDT hosted a dance intensive through IPFW’s CAA program for two weeks over the summer. Ballet and Modern classes were available both weeks for anyone at the intermediate range looking to attend a fast paced and affordable dance class for the summer. The classes were taught by Elizabeth Mikauatdze and Tracy Tritz rotationally.
Wondering why MDT decided Fort Wayne was a good place to start a modern dance company? I caught up with Elizabeth to get the inside scoop.
“My husband and composer, David, and I moved here from NYC shortly after the tragedy of 9/11. We dreamed of starting a collaborative dance company for many years and with the attributes of a smaller town, minimal modern dance presence, and with the stability that Fort Wayne provided for us, we made the decision to found the nonprofit, Mikautadze Dance Theatre. So, I guess you could say that Fort Wayne chose us. We began rehearsing at The Fort Wayne Dance Collective, and then in 2012 we were invited to become a company-in-residence at IPFW's College of Visual and Performing Arts. Fort Wayne has been the solid beginning for something big, an excellent home base!”
For those dancers or dance students in Fort Wayne, Elizabeth reflects: “I believe in order to create a vibrant and growing dance culture in Fort Wayne, the education of our young dance students is of utmost importance. Dance history, training, and exposure to all dance forms is the backbone to understanding what it means to be a dance artist. When a young dancer develops knowledge and respect for what came before him/her, the various techniques and styles of dance, they become capable of creating something new and meaningful. This in turn elevates the standard of the art form locally, and ultimately creates more passionate, creative, and engaging dancers, and not just trend seekers and followers.
At MDT if we find a dancer that has a passion for dance, but lacks training, we provide them the opportunity to train with us and develop their talents. Some of our dancers have been dancing most of their lives, but a few have not had formal dance training. We believe that is an opportunity, and our obligation to give back to the community, by transmitting and transferring the rich history of dance technique to the new generation, passing it on to help enrich the future of local dance.”
For art and dance enthusiasts, “Dance can be a rather abstract and elusive art form compared to its sister Arts, but as the community continues its support, it will benefit by potentially experiencing something that is fresh, new, and exciting. Dance can stand alone, but it can also be the thread that weaves everything together and creates an uber art experience, and that is a wonderful event to behold.”
Not a fan of dance? Well this isn’t some long boring production of Nutcracker. “We include various dance styles within our repertoire; based in modern, ballet, and contemporary dance techniques. We aim to produce work that is a synthesis of multiple art genres by collaborating with local, regional, and national artists to present a complete artistic experience to our audiences. Attention to detail of every art form involved in each work is crucial. The dance is important, but so is the music, the set, the costumes, and even the way one work transitions into the next. The process is more laborious because of this attention to detail, but I wouldn't have it any other way! The results of these efforts are that we often hear from audience members, who initially came to a performance to simply show their support for a company member, that it was the first time they actually enjoyed a dance performance, and that they didn't realize that dance could be so cinematic and full of drama.”
It isn’t all glittery tutus and drudging music. Don’t believe me? See for yourself, they will be performing at the Fringe Festival August 6th and 7th. You can also expect to see them next May for another spectacular spring performance.
(All photos courtesy of David Mikautadze)
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