HHII: Expanding the Dance Universe
Nebula Dance Lab didn’t have to cancel its annual HHII Dance Festival during the COVID crisis, although last year’s event did migrate to the virtual world. But what also happened in the more than two years since the festival’s last live weekend, was that the world caught up to Nebula and HHII’s concept of inclusivity, as the festival has always had a remarkably broad reach across styles, artists, areas, and approaches to populate its four days of performances.
“Part of the Nebula platform is to support emerging artists, not just present work from our own company,” explained Devyn Duex, Nebula’s founder. “What better way to live the mission than support a festival that offers artists all over a chance to show work in any style, any length, from anywhere in terms of geography.”
So the eighth HHII – an abbreviation of Herbig-Haro, which are small objects associated with newly born stars – continues that tradition of presenting four nights of entirely different work April 21-24 at Center Stage Theater. Each show is curated to balance movement forms, cast size, technical issues, and more, covering modern, contemporary ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, and even classic Indian styles.
“It’s organically created by the works that are submitted by the artists we’ve invited or who have otherwise applied,” said Duex, adding that Thursday remains the community/youth evening, followed by Friday’s mix-and-mingle pre-show gathering and a shorter program of nine pieces that run under an hour. Saturday’s show is for the die-hard dance fans as the two-hour program covers the widest range of styles and approaches, while Sunday’s matinee meanders into areas of improv.
Nebula has two slots over the four days, both excerpts from Humanity, the evening-length work premiered at the Lobero last fall and slated to return to the theater with reworked and additional sections this autumn. That’s a mere five percent of the works presented over the four days, which suits Duex just fine as her primary focus is on her colleagues who are coming in from all over California, as well as Chicago and New York, to perform in town.
“We’ll have hundreds of artists in town and it’s just a really great opportunity to support dancers that have been so challenged over these past two years,” she said. “There’s a lot of dance in town these days, so I hope the community comes out and celebrates all these great artists.” Even more exciting though, Duex said, is that the festival fosters interactions between the different choreographers and dancers over the weekend, most of which take place behind the scenes. “They can come watch and learn from each other, get to know each other, and network. Over the years, we’ve seen artists go on to co-produce shows together or travel across the country to work together. That’s really rewarding. We want to share with our community, but we also want to celebrate and help artists have more opportunities to perform outside of the festival environment. It’s all about growing dance.” Visit nebuladance.org or centerstagetheater.org.