TITAS brings the modern dance company tonight to the Winspear. We talk with co-director Lillian Barbeito about dance life in LA, performing workshops for people with disabilities and BODYTRAFFIC’s eclectic style.
‘Green Bride’ by BODYTRAFFIC.
TITAS is starting of 2016 by hosting one of the hottest dance companies in America, BODYTRAFFIC.
Launched in 2007 by two dancers who were unhappy with their options in the entertainment capital of the word – Los Angeles – the group has now become the “company of the future,” a title given to them by the Joyce Theater Foundation. BODYTRAFFIC’s signature style has helped them carve out a place in the sometimes oversaturated contemporary dance world, and for the first time in their career, they are bringing their eclectic programming to Dallas.
BODYTRAFFIC at the Winspear Opera House, Friday, January 22 at 8:00 p.m.
We spoke with Lillian Barbeito, who co-founded and co-directs the company, as she gears up for the performance today at the Winspear Opera House.
How did BODYTRAFFIC first come about? And how did you and Tina Finkelman Berkett, your co-director, first meet?
LBTina and I first met in ballet class. She was in town visiting her fiance (now husband) and I approached her because excellent contemporary dancers were few and far between back then and she stood out in class. On a whim, I told her that she should move to LA and we could start a dance company together. A year later, she did move and we founded the company without really knowing each other. I would say that Tina and I are artistic and business soul mates. We started the company out of necessity. We wanted to live in Los Angeles, but the type of work we craved did not yet exist. Now the scene is blossoming and we are pleased to know that BODYTRAFFIC played a role in that development.
You and Tina have developed a successful and effective collaboration and co-directorship. What have you found are the keys to collaboration, and how do you maintain a positive working environment?
LB I really don’t understand how other repertory company directors do it alone! Tina and I respect and listen to each others’ ideas. We split the responsibilities. We are both married with children and advocate for our dancers to live balanced lives. We take our work seriously but enjoy ourselves immensely. Living in a warm, sunny place certainly helps! Dancing is a hard profession and running a company can be at times daunting, but I think despite the sacrifices and stress, it is worth it. We are fortunate to be able to do what we love; produce great dance and share our art with people around the globe.
How would you describe the movement vocabulary and style of BODYTRAFFIC to our audience here in Dallas?
LBEach work is unique. In the program that we are bringing to Dallas, we’ll start with something theatrical and gestural, move into a work that is intense and weighted, and close with a work that is light-hearted, jazzy, and extremely musical.
Your company is extremely diverse, both in the make-up of the company, as well as in the works that you present and produce. What are you looking for in a dancer, and what are you looking for in a choreographer/collaborator?
LB We like our dancers to have supple minds and bodies. They need to have a strong technical foundation, rich life experience and/or imagination to bring to the work, and be friendly and fearless. We tend to commission choreographers who have distinctive voices and who are a pleasure to be in the studio with. Personality is as important to us as talent.
You just returned from a five-week tour of Israel and Jordan where you performed and did outreach with people of all demographics, including people with disabilities. Can you talk a little bit about that work – what inspired it – and how you will continue that work while you are here in Dallas?
LBBODYTRAFFIC was selected by BAM [Brooklyn Academy of Music] and the US Department of State to be cultural ambassadors via a program called DanceMotion USA. To honor the 25th Anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act, a large portion of our outreach in the Middle East focused on workshops for people of all ages living with physical and mental challenges. It was a tremendous honor to represent our country and incredible to know that our government acknowledges the healing power of modern dance. It was truly a life-changing experience. BODYTRAFFIC has already had several special-needs workshops in Los Angeles since we returned and would certainly love to collaborate with Dallas-based organizations that would be interested in multi-abled experiences.
What are your plans for the future of BODYTRAFFIC?
LBWe would like to continue growing our business so that we can provide more stability for our dancers, such as more adequate salaries and health insurance. If our artists are taken care of, they will be even more effective when they are out in the world dancing and connecting with people. Tina and I want to have a positive impact on our planet through dance. Dance heals, we have witnessed it first-hand.