Dallas has a new jazz modern dance company ready to premiere work for your pleasure. 8&1 Dance Company, cheap the brainchild of choreographer Jill S. Rucci, will have its first show in March at Plano’s Courtyard Theatre.

A dancer even before she could walk, Rucci is a performer at heart. After receiving her dance degree from Dean College in Franklin, MA, where she studied all forms of dance, musical theater, dance education, and voice, Rucci trained, taught, performed and presented her choreography in many cities including Boston, Los Angeles, Dallas and New York. The moment you start to chat about dance, her face lights up and she starts bouncing in her chair, her passion and energy for the art form beaming out of her. That energy is what pushed her to take her experience as a professional dancer and choreographer to a new place, and start this new company. Arts writer Danielle Georgiou sat down with the New York transplant to discuss her newest move.

A+C: You had quite the career as a dancer in New York before coming to Texas two years ago. What was that like?

Jill Rucci: New York…how I love New York! Performing professionally there was amazing. The energy was great; it really shaped my respect for the art of dance. It was not an easy life and it made me strong minded, as well as a very disciplined artist.

A+C:  How did you make the transition from dancer to choreographer, and now Artistic Director of your own company?

Jill Rucci:  I have always danced and choreographed. When I was in New York, I worked with a great company, Vissi Dance Theatre, and worked very closely with the director, Courtney French, under who I helped produce a few of their production. Looking back, I know now it’s not that he needed the help, but that he was being an awesome mentor in preparing me for what the future may hold. I’ve always wanted to have my own company, and I feel like all of my hard work over the years has helped prepare me for this. I never just danced. I always worked behind the scenes too. I tried to learn all aspects of the art.

A+C:  How did the name 8&1 come about?

Jill Rucci: The name 8&1 just stuck with me. I knew I wanted to have 8 members: 8 dancers and 1 choreographer. Plus, dancers are always counting 5, 6, 7, 8&1. I thought it was catchy and made sense. I also wanted to name it something people would easily remember.

A+C:  What are the pressures of being a young dance company?  

Jill Rucci: The biggest pressure: trying to create a following. No one knows about 8&1 and if they do, they have no clue what to expect. They have to take a chance on us. And I have no control over that! And that’s my personal biggest pressure. I always say you could produce the best show in the world, but if there’s not an audience, the story is still untold.

A+C:  How did you overcome the financial obstacle of starting up a new business? 

Jill Rucci: Starting up a new business is very expensive. Producing a show at the same time is a difficult feat. I feel it is very important to do things the right way and I try to make sure everyone is taken care of to the best of my abilities. I have been teaching a lot of classes in which I have been setting choreography on dancers/dance schools to financially support 8&1. I’m also very lucky that my brother, Robert R. Rucci, of R3 creative, has been so willing to donate so much time, artwork, and design. Without his support this whole process would have been overwhelming. We are working towards an established company that will receive grants and funding to help support our future shows.

A+C:  What are you looking for in a dancer?

Jill Rucci: Commitment. Professionalism. A dancer who comes ready to work. I also want dancers who aren’t afraid to experiment with movement. I want them to dance bigger than they can imagine. I want dancers who strive to be the best and never satisfied with the status quo.

A+C:  How can local dancers get involved in classes and auditions?

Jill Rucci: We would love for local dancers to get involved with us! Our master classes are usually open to all levels, as well as being tons of fun [8&1 will be holding master classes monthly]. We will also be holding our next audition early April 2012.

A+C:  So, what can we expect from your premiere?  

Jill Rucci: Fire and passion! You can expect that this show will stimulate your heart and mind as well as being entertaining!

What are your hopes and goals for the future? 

Jill Rucci:  The most important is to continue to live our mission statement, which is to: dance, work, rehearse, prefect, perform, and entertain. We want to reach out to the community through our dancing tell stories and touch lives.

 

-Danielle M. Georgiou
Danielle M. Georgiou is freelance choreographer and dancer. She is the Artistic Director of DGDG (Danielle Georgiou Dance Group) and the Director of the UTA Dance Ensemble.