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Bits ‘n’ Pieces: Tiny stage fails to deter these dancers

VSAA alumni will perform at tonight's celebratory event

By Tom Vogt, Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter
Published: October 16, 2015, 6:03am

If you think the choreography of a big dance production is challenging, consider dancing on half a pool table.

That’s the idea behind “Ten Tiny Dances,” and it’s what Eric Nordstrom and dance partner Luke Gutgsell will be doing tonight.

That’s right, two dancers performing on a stage that measures 4 feet by 4 feet.

Nordstrom is a 1999 graduate of Vancouver School of Arts and Academics who now teaches and performs in Portland. He returns today for a 7 p.m. event that celebrates 20 years of dancing at the school. The dance concert will feature VSAA graduates, as well as current student dancers.

Nordstrom and Gutgsell will perform a duet created last summer for the “Ten Tiny Dances” series.

If you go

What: Celebration of 20 Years of Dance at VSAA

Where: Vancouver School of Arts and Academics, 3101 Main St., Vancouver.

When: 7 p.m. today.

Cost: $10, $5 for students.

“The concept came from Luke, and the choreography was created by both of us,” Nordstrom said.

“As a choreographer, it’s an incredible challenge: How do you create a full, captivating performance — two people dancing pretty vigorously — in a limited space?” Nordstrom said in a phone interview. “That’s what makes it interesting. When we have a larger perimeter to work with, we don’t have to overcome the same challenges.”

So just how do you overcome those challenges?

“Lifts: using space vertically, up and down,” Nordstrom said. “And counter-balance: You might be hanging a good two or three feet off the stage and your partner is providing the counterbalancing weight.”

Those elements of movement are linked to one of Nordstrom’s dance specialties — contact improvisation.

“It works with momentum and weight as a way to lift people,” he said. And if it sounds a bit like martial arts, “Some of the moves are inspired by aikido.”

Nordstrom noted that “you are allowed to leave the stage momentarily, as long as your movement is in relation to the stage.”

There is one advantage in using such a confining space. It’s a convenient way to showcase dance in some unconventional places.

“It’s such a portable small stage, it can pop up in all kinds of different venues,” Nordstrom said.

They won’t be using their tiny stage tonight in Royal Durst Theatre, by the way.

“At VSAA, we will use a pool of light to define the space.”

Bits ‘n’ Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you’d like to share, email bits@columbian.com.

Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter