How This Husband-Wife Duo’s Contemporary Dance Troupe, Vagabond, Became the Art Council’s Artist-in-Residence and Finds Baton Rouge “Home”

Their movements tell stories about life in unexpected ways.

Contemporary dance troupe, vagbond, will perform an original work next Friday and Saturday at the Carey Saurage Community Arts Center called Unpaved: Impressions of a Lost Home. The hour-long show is performed by vagbondage founders, husband-wife team Scarlett Wynne and Erik Sampson, who have themed the performance around the concept of seeking physical and emotional belonging. The pieces, which have been choreographed in Baton Rouge over the past few months, explore what “home” means, Wynne says.

“It revolves around the idea of ​​displacement and loss of home,” says Wynne, artistic director of the company. “Especially as more and more people leave their homes by choice or because of circumstances beyond their control.”

Both shows can only seat 25 people each and will take place in the Community Arts Center’s black box performance space, where Wynne’s Vagabond and Sampson has been an artist-in-residence since March. The duo moved to Baton Rouge from Santa Fe, where they were both part of the New Mexico Dance Project. Sampson also ran a business providing brand management consulting to nonprofit clients across the country, including Baton Rouge.

But good dance studio space had become hard to come by in Santa Fe, they say, especially during and after COVID-19. Sampson’s nonprofit clients in Baton Rouge connected him with the Arts Council and its Executive Director Renee Chatelain in early 2021. Chatelain shared the Arts Council’s vision to transform the Triangle Building into Carey Saurage Community Arts Center, which would also include space for working artists. as a well-equipped multi-purpose black-box performance space for dancers. The building was completed last fall.

Finding that kind of space for dancers is rare, says Sampson.

“You can’t just walk into any community space and start moving things around for a show,” he says. “It just doesn’t work for dancing. And even communities building a new space they believe works for dance often miss the mark.

Conversely, the black box space at the Carey Saurage Community Arts Center features mirrors, bars, a sound system, and marley flooring, which is high-grade, shock-absorbing vinyl flooring. . The lure of space and the ability to create their own works and courses prompted the couple to move to Baton Rouge. Sampson still works as a nonprofit management consultant. He and Wynne together shape the direction of Vagabond, a new concept they pioneered when they became artists-in-residence at the Community Arts Center.

Wynne and Sampson experiment with new moves. Photo credit: Manning Lloyd

Along with regular performances like Unpavedvagbond offers various dance classes at reasonable prices, including a “Movement for all” open to non-dancers of all physical levels.

“It’s all about listening to the body and connecting without judgment or stress,” says Wynne.

Another class called “Contemporary Forms” helps experienced dancers develop their contemporary dance techniques.

Community dance classes given by the artist-in-residence of the Community Arts Centre, vagbond. Photo credit: Caleb Bourque

Wynne and Sampson spent many years as professional dancers and worked with numerous companies across the country. Wynne’s parents were both professional dancers, she says, which meant a childhood of both teaching dance and traveling. She joined Georgia Ballet as a young adult and after working for a few years in classical ballet, she says she was drawn to exploring contemporary movement. The couple met while performing professionally in Texas.

Wynne and Sampson say landing in Baton Rouge is just another part of their journey.

“This idea of ​​being kind of a wanderer, in a positive sense,” Sampson says, “is this idea of ​​experiencing a lot of different impressions that not only speak to who you are, but maybe also who you are. who you could be.”

Representations of Unpaved: Impressions of a Lost Home will take place on Thursday November 17 and Friday November 18 at 6:00 p.m., doors open at 5:30 p.m. For more tickets and information, visit vagabonance.org.


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