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The dialogue goes both ways

EXCHANGE Choreography Festival promises a frank look at the art of dance



Dancers at The Bellhouse

Most dance performances are one-sided: The dancers dance, the audience watches, and everybody goes home.

EXCHANGE Choreography Festival is not like that, according to Rachel Bruce Johnson, the Artistic Director of The Bell House.

“It’s a little different from the traditional two-hour concert. We don’t want to hold onto you for two hours,” Johnson said.

“This is not ‘Swan Lake,’” said Alicia Chesser, the curator and assistant director of the festival.

The festival is presented in cycles of two to three pieces. After each cycle, the audience will hear from the choreographers—their inspiration for the piece, their struggles with it, their questions about it. Then, at the end of the day, there will be an hour-long discussion and audience Q&A related to the pieces seen that day.

“We’re really trying to design it so that the dialogue goes both ways,” said Johnson, who is a founder of the EXCHANGE Festival, which is celebrating its sixth year in Tulsa. “It’s really a back and forth, so that the non-superstar with brilliant ideas can sit next to someone who is a superstar and wants to share their tips and tricks.”

“We’re acknowledging that artmaking is about trying. It’s about a relationship. It’s about who you are as a person in your community,” Chesser said.

The festival will be come-and-go, so that audience members can have a choice between supporting an artist for one piece or taking in an entire day of dance.

“There’s a wide variety of ideas in the pieces,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot to keep the audience’s interest. It’s not all Butoh [a Japanese style famous for its bodily contortions] on the ground; if that’s not your jam, that’s okay, there’s going to be something new in five minutes.”

There will be pieces with props and a few works in progress. “One man is bringing a piece he’s worked on for 17 years,” said Johnson. “He’s done it as a solo, as a duet, a big group piece. He’s bringing it as a duet this year. There will be audience participation [in the piece] too.”

“This festival is an attempt to express the fact that everybody’s included,” Chesser said. “It’s a way to take the process of making art a little more seriously and also to hold it with some playfulness and some openness.”


EXCHANGE Dance Festival
July 26-28
Tulsa Performing Arts Center – Liddy Doenges Theatre
​110 E. 2nd St.
Click here for more information and ticketing.

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