BlackBird dance troupe prepares to soar in second production

Contributing Culture WriterJune 12, 2014 

  • IF YOU GO

    BlackBird Dance Theatre: 'The Broken Queen'

    What: Dance conceived and choreographed by Jenny Fitzpatrick with music by Chico Fellini

    When: 7:30 p.m. June 13, 7:30 p.m. June 14

    Where: Downtown Arts Center, 141 E. Main St.

    Tickets: $20, $15 students and seniors. Available at (859) 225-0370 or Lexarts.tix.com.

    Learn more: Facebook.com/BlackBirdDanceTheatre

For the past several months, a dozen dancers at the newly formed BlackBird Dance Theatre have been learning how to fly.

"We've been taking aerial silks training with Jessica Johnson," says BlackBird's artistic director, Jenny Fitzpatrick, who founded the contemporary and jazz dance troupe in 2013. Its debut production was The Great Gray.

The troupe's newly acquired aerial silks skills will be one of several elements featured in the company's second production, The Broken Queen, debuting Friday.

Fitzpatrick, who conceived, choreographed and directed the show, describes The Broken Queen as a mysterious and surreal exploration of power, longing, freedom and, occasionally, madness.

"The show is deeply narrative, and kind of a cross between Greek mythology and Alice in Wonderland," Fitzpatrick said.

In the program, she writes, "All dancers wish they had wings to fly above all, to fly free of all, to drop without fear of landing. But we are often ripped from the sky only to land and have those wings broken."

The hourlong show also features original music by Lexington rock band Chico Fellini, which will perform during The Broken Queen. Fitzpatrick worked with Chico Fellini guitarist and music producer Duane Lundy to nail down the show's music, a collaboration that began during last year's The Great Gray.

"She pretty much forced me to do it," Lundy joked, "but we've always looked for an excuse to get together."

Fitzpatrick says the show is unique because the creative process between her and Lundy is an example of how collaborations between two different art disciplines can have a powerful effect on each other and the production as a whole.

"I would share new songs with Jenny, and then she would give me feedback or incorporate that into the show," Lundy said.

What began as something of a cinematic soundscape evolved into a complex narrative, he said.

Fitzpatrick sometimes would ask for changes in the music, influencing Lundy's original score. Conversely, new music by Lundy often inspired changes in the dance's thematic and performance elements.

Fitzpatrick was determined to take the collaboration even further by featuring Chico Fellini onstage.

"Having a live band enhances the experience for the audience and the dancers. It really emphasizes that the dancers, the musicians and the audience are all connected in the moment," Fitzpatrick said. "I really didn't want to use canned music — then it's just another dance concert."

For now, BlackBird Dance Theatre is performing one show a year, but Fitzpatrick said she hoped to add more shows as the organization grows.

"I would love to see us doing four or five shows," Fitzpatrick said.

In addition to its productions, BlackBird has a dance school. Classes include contemporary dance, jazz, hip hop and creative movement for children 3 and older.

Fitzpatrick said she hoped those education programs would serve as a feeder program for company members and elevate the troupe's funding sources.

Fitzpatrick has dedicated The Broken Queen to her late niece, Sara Elizabeth Fitzpatrick, who died in a car crash last fall in Allen County at age 17. The program reads, "In your memory, I see things good and true."

Fitzpatrick said her niece was more like a little sister to her.

"She had a beautifully artistic spirit and didn't always know how to express it," she said, "and I just always understood her."

Candace Chaney is a Lexington writer.

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