Stage & Dance

Rich Copley: Lexington Art League chief creates a niche for modern dance

Stephanie Pevec, foreground, and Amy San Pedro of Contemporary Dance Collective rehearsed Wednesday at the Downtown Arts Center, where the troupe will present its second show on Friday and Saturday. Pevec, who founded the company, is taking a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach.
Stephanie Pevec, foreground, and Amy San Pedro of Contemporary Dance Collective rehearsed Wednesday at the Downtown Arts Center, where the troupe will present its second show on Friday and Saturday. Pevec, who founded the company, is taking a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach. Lexington Herald-Leader

When Stephanie Pevec arrived in Lexington, she saw a glaring hole in its arts offerings: modern dance.

It wasn't a complete surprise to her; she says the form is much more prevalent in big cities.

"You go to Chicago, and you can find a modern class just about anywhere, and you can take an amazing class," Pevec says. "One and a half to two hours of technique, which is mostly what you'll find in a professional college program. But when you graduate with a performance degree and you go to a city the size of Lexington, there isn't an outlet. There isn't a system set up to study technique in a way that you know you need to. So you find ways to adapt."

Some dancers take hip-hop, yoga or other forms of dance and physical training, even adult ballet. Pevec and other modern dancers in the area have done all of those.

But she's involved now in a much more overt form of adaptation. Pevec has formed Contemporary Dance Collective, which will have its second performance Friday and Saturday at the Downtown Arts Center. She had worked on the project for the past couple of years while devoting herself to her day job as executive director of Lexington Art League.

Although the word dance is in the group's name, the collective, like Pevec's life, is a multidisciplinary presentation.

"It was the perfect compliment to this process of talking to artists that I know and respect about their work and saying, do you want to make something original together?" Pevec says. "So, there's a variety of visual artists working on this concert. ... Over the last four weeks, we've brought in our musician, Emily Hagihara, who plays with Chico Fellini and studied percussion at UK, and she's been in with her percussion set. She wrote three pieces for this concert.

"Really, honestly, every work in this show is a combination of several artists working together."

Other collaborators include filmmakers Marcel Cabrera, Robin Burke, Matt Dooley and Kurt Gohde; video installation artist Lennon Michalski; painter and poet Theo Edmonds; visual artist Mary Carothers; and dancers Pevec, Amy San Pedro, Jason Thompson and Casey Gregory.

The group and the performance emphasize multidisciplinary collaboration, but Pevec asserts the autonomy of modern dance as an art form unto itself.

"I go with the Merce Cunningham approach that you don't necessarily pick a song and then choreograph to it, that music has an atmospheric quality and it's a space that dance exists within. I really feel much more comfortable not defining my work in a specific song. I like to create a language and then find a piece of music that supports it."

The entire concert, Pevec says, has evolved through an organic process.

She says, "If you approach an artist and say, 'I want to work with you. I don't need to ask you to do something specific, but I know of your ability, I know how talented you are, I want to figure out a way we can work together, but I don't want to confine you within a specific set of criteria,' it becomes this open and unique and wonderful experience. I'm really excited for people to see the results of this open and creative process."

The first concert by the group was last June. Pevec says it went well, selling out one performance and giving the collective something to build on. She says she hopes to make the collective's performances more frequent, but she does have to work within her own work and family life.

"There are many sides to every art form," Pevec says. "I think it's exciting to open that experience up to our audience in Lexington and informing them about what is modern dance — that it's a concert dance, that it's presented professionally and that it can happen here regionally because there are so many people studying modern in cities like Lexington who want to find an outlet. I think the support is here in the city, and an audience can be built."

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