Monday, August 21, 2006

A Festival Grows in Houston: Andrea Cody on Dance Houston

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Dance Force Productions in Dance Houston
Photo by Amitava Sarkar

Andrea Cody grew up dancing at the Houston Ballet Academy, the Houston Swing Dance Society, and all-ages nightclubs. She studied dance, business, and literature at The University of Chicago where she earned her BA. As much as she loved Chicago, the weather caught up to her, so she moved back to Houston with a mission to make her hometown a more vibrant place. She started Dance Houston shortly after landing back in Houston.

Why did you start Dance Houston?
AC: When I lived in Chicago, I got turned onto the coolest dance show I’d ever seen: Dance Chicago. It’s a 5-week festival of dance concerts, and the most popular concert in the festival was the one that had over a dozen companies of different styles in one presentation. Upon returning to Houston, I enjoyed the modern and world dance festivals here, yet I quickly noticed that there was one awesome show that this city lacked--one with all the different styles at once—my favorite one—and so Dance Houston began.

University of Chicago is pretty heady place. How did your business studies help in the management of Dance Houston?
I utilize the knowledge i picked up in college to make business decisions and plans. I can't imagine running Dance Houston without a good understanding of entrepreneurship, economic laws, and marketing.

How do you see yourself as a maverick in this community?
AC: I guess the norm in dance is to devote yourself to one style or company. For me, as long as it's dance and it's in Houston, I’m there.

How do groups get on the bill?
AC: the groups apply by sending in basic info on their company, ideas for a piece in the show, and a video of their work. The applications are reviewed by Dance Houston’s artistic advisory board which selects the best representatives from the various genres of dance.

What’s exciting for you to have so much dance at one event?
AC: Dance festivals are a great way of celebrating dance as a highly expressive, versatile, and progressive form of art. Every dance company is proud of their signature style, and a showcase format emphasizes their uniqueness and pushes them to represent it to the best of their ability. The range of diverse cultures that come together to produce and watch this event is what i derive the deepest sense of accomplishment from.

Is it wild backstage?
AC: In the wings, you could hear a pin drop. In the dressing room, it's the craziest party I’ve ever seen - a 72-hour dance marathon starring the best dancers in the city.

Do the performers get to know each other?
AC: They sure do, because everyone shares the love of dance and watches each other perform, striking up a conversation and making new friends couldn't be easier. There’s also a lot of cross-pollination among the groups because the dancers buzz back and forth between groups throughout the year, so backstage at Dance Houston is a place to make new friends and reconnect with old ones.

Do you hope that some of these groups will become each other's future audiences? It sure would be cool if that happened.
AC: Yes, it is cool because they already do that to a fair extent. In reviewing the ticket sales reports from many of our participating companies, I’ve found that a significant amount of both the dancers and audience members at Dance Houston follow their favorite companies throughout the season. I’d like to see more of it in the future, but it's been a good start.

How do you know the dance scene so well?
AC: I’m just a big fan.

Do you think the success of SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE will affect your attendance?
AC: It'll be hard to tell since Dance Houston’s annual festival has always sold out. However, those who do come who have been watching the show should have a better eye for the unique qualities of each dance style and what to watch for to determine whether or not those styles are being performed well.

Will people that voted for Benji be happy with the show?
AC: people who love fun, energetic dancers will not be able to sit still in their seats.

What do you do for a day job?
AC: I devote most of my waking hours to running Dance Houston and volunteering in the dance community, but I pay the bills by teaching dance a few hours a week.

Tell us about the peer review process you have going for the performance. Will the groups get to pick who reviews or is it anonymous?
AC: Each company receives feedback from two reviewers who are professionals in the dance industry. The reviewers get to pick who they want to review and then sign their reviews so it's not anonymous.

Are you dancing in the show? If so, however do you do that and manage it all?
AC: I have my production staff run tech and dress rehearsals, so I don't have much left on my to-do list once we get in the theater. I’m not sure yet if I’ll be dancing this weekend. Easy Credit might need some bodies to ebb and flow in a tide, so I’ll roll onto the stage for that if I need to.

Do you plan on more theme shows like Dance Houston Does Houston?
AC: We'll present some themed performances this year, but not another choreographer's project for awhile.

What’s next for Dance Houston?
AC: A holiday kid's show in December and a Flamenco concert in March.

Any big “ahha” moments from attending the DANCE USA conference?
AC: oh, yes! When YOU were speaking, I was encouraged to recognize that the press needs news just as much as we need press, and that we should be persistent with the press because it shows how much we love what we do. Also, Dance Houston launched movers and shakers, a monthly e-newsletter, after learning about the benefits of e-newsletters.

Dance Houston, August 25th & 16th at 7:30pm, August 27th at 6pm at Zilkha Hall, Hobby Center. Call 713-315-2525 or visit or