The Vanguard Dance Troupe steps out on a branch at Archway

THIS WEEKEND, ARCHWAY Gallery continues its series of adventurous post-pandemic programs with two nights of performances by Houston’s PDC Works (formerly Psophonia Dance). Take root is a brand new dance created by the company’s artistic director, Sophia Torres, with live music for viola and fixed support by Houston composer Rob Smith.


In these still uncertain times, with a fragile economy recovering, and artists, musicians and dancers now returning to the public sphere after months of isolation and unemployment, cross-pollination between artistic disciplines and places is going to be crucial. for the survival of the arts. Take root is the poetic realization and argument of this necessary symbiosis, inspired by nature, but presented indoors.

Throughout the quieter months of quarantine, Torres, like many Houstonians, found herself even more attuned to the sounds and rhythms of the natural world. The movement in Take rootwhich began to take shape in July, is inspired in part by the way trees use their roots to communicate with each other, creating an intricate, subterranean “living web” described by Torres as “the secret world below the ground of the forest”.

Recent photos of the PDC Works dancers show the company’s lithe, graceful dancers deep in a forest, their stretches evoking the twisting, gnarled growth of the surrounding trees. “The choreography of Take rootdeveloped once we were able to meet in person,” says Torres. “It is through the corporate bodies that I can advance the vision, the story.

In performance, dancers will move through Archway like pollinators floating from flower to flower (or perhaps invisible signals transmitted between trees), transforming the gallery into an imaginary green space. Although seating is provided, the public is allowed and encouraged to move around the space to watch the dance from different vantage points. The 4,000 square foot gallery has semi-enclosed spaces, alcoves and display cases providing ample opportunity for a dancer to disappear and then reappear, depending on where an audience member is standing or sitting.

In performance, Smith’s score for Take root is performed live by violist Nina Bledsoe Knight, her fully scored part complemented by a pre-recorded soundscape of sampled tree and viola sounds. “Sounds are basically water flowing inside a tree,” says Smith, who began collaborating with Torres and his company in 2015. “Several scientists have recorded sounds from inside trees. with special microphones that they attach to the trunk. I used these recordings as a guide to create my own version of these sounds.”

While Knight will mostly remain stationary during this weekend’s performances, Torres is known for creating choreography to include her musicians, fully integrating them into the work, which will no doubt happen as Take root continues to expand into an evening program.

To complete the program, excerpts from two works by the company, The orchid (2013) and pier (2015), each a tribute to the member of the company Vi Dieu who died suddenly in 2020.

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