Alisa Mittin in Blake Beckham’s Dearly Departures.
Photo by Jamie Hopper.

Dance Source Houston Offers Residencies to Three Texas Dance Artists

The loss of the DiverseWorks dance residency several years back, and more recently, Hope Stone’s Hope Werks residency took a toll on Houston’s dance making scene. Enter Dance Source Houston (DSH), moving into its 10th year with a can do attitude. As the only dance service organization in the country that runs its own space, they are uniquely positioned to make an impact on the lives of the city’s dance artists. To that end, DSH has awarded their first round of residences to three outstanding choreographers: Lori Yuill, Alisa Mittin and Joel Rivera.

In addition to rehearsal space, artists receive professional development workshops in marketing, lighting, production, costume design and tour readiness, production and marketing plan assistance and individual artist grant application assistance. The residency culminates in performances at the inaugural Barnstorm Dance Festival in June.

DSH executive director Stephanie Wong knows firsthand what it’s like to make work without sufficient support. “I like to say that dance making has high overhead,” says Wong. “You can’t just create a piece when inspiration strikes where ever you are. You have to wait until your scheduled rehearsal in the studio with sprung floors and mirrors on Thursday at 3pm with your six dancers who need to be paid for their time, which by the way, is only two hours, because they all have to go to another job at 5pm, and another group is entering the studio at that time.”

Infrastructure is key in this equation. If we want to keep Houston a place where artists want to grow their work, we need to make that easier. When it gets too difficult to create, artists stop. Wong knows that the choreography biz is hard enough without adding difficult logistics. “We wanted to help ease the burden by providing a safe place for artists to have consistent time in the studio, enough time to really wrestle with their work, while simultaneously learning real world skills for self production,” adds Wong.

The three artists selected are all in different stages in their careers, and have distinct projects in mind for their residencies.

Alisa Mittin and Erik Thurmond in over.again Photo by Michael Boatwright.

Alisa Mittin and Erik Thurmond in over.again
Photo by Michael Boatwright.

Alisa Mittin

Alisa Mittin came to my attention during a visit to my hometown, Buffalo, NewYork, where she was performing at a local festival. I was so charmed by her work that I ended up including her in a Dance Magazine story about post-college migration back to hometowns. Mittin is an alum of the California Institute of the Arts, a founding member of Austerlund Dance Company, and has worked with such renowned artists such as Blake Beckham, Gregory Cattelier, Colin Connor, Jonathan Fredrickson and Mira Kingsley. She has performed professionally in Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, Buffalo, Atlanta and Houston.

“I’m thrilled to be a part of this residency, not only because of the great support and talented artists I have the pleasure to work beside, but also for the invaluable tools, resources and information that I will be able to access during the residency,” says Mittin. “These are skills every working artist should foster. I am confident that it will provide encouragement and support as I further my career as a performer and dance/art maker. During this process I hope to create an evening-length work of dance theater that will include original music and puppetry. I’m looking forward to my time in this program, and hope it may prove to be a springboard for a more national endeavor in the form of a multi-city artist collaboration and performance debut. I’ve got big plans, and these stepping stones will surely guide my way.”

Lori Yuill Photo by Brian Buck.

Lori Yuill
Photo by Brian Buck.

Lori Yuill

When Lori Yuill moves her intelligence comes through. She’s trained in a range of somatic disciplines, along with contact improvisation, all of which influences her movement. I’ve been a Yuill fan since her days at Suchu dance, and have enjoyed the few times she returned to perform in the Big Range Dance Festival. Now that she’s back in Houston, she’s ready to get back to work.

Yuill did her undergraduate work at Texas Christian University and received her MFA at Sarah Lawrence College. In addition to Suchu, she has performed with Momentum Danza Contemporanea in Guatemala, Sara Rudner, Anneke Hansen, Milka Djordjevich, Enrico Wey, Stephanie Miracle, UpRooted Dance and Daniel Burkholder/The Playground.

Yuill actually received one of those DiverseWorks residencies for Floating/Falling. For her, the timing was key. “The DSH residency came at the perfect time for me,” she says. “After showing work in the Houston Fringe Festival, I was looking for a way to continue rehearsing. Up until now, I have worked on a project here and there, but I would like to make a shift to a practice where I am continually in the studio. I think the workshops will help me fill in some gaps in knowledge of self-producing and give me a better footing in the Houston dance scene.”

Joel Rivera. Photo by Vien Nguyen.

Joel Rivera.
Photo by Vien Nguyen.

Joel Rivera

Joel “Judo” Rivera is the newest member of NobleMotion Dance. He brings 14 years of experience in B-boy, house, salsa, contemporary modern and hip hop. With Inertia Dance Co., Rivera performed in New Orleans, Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and at the 8th Annual Folk Art Festival in Su Zhou, Shang Hai, and Beijing China. Rivera has appeared in national television in shows, such as the Tony Danza Show, People magazine, The Early Show on CBS, the Superbowl, and MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew. “I hope to work on everything I can, to the best of my ability, to be able to take full advantage of the facility and knowledge I can obtain in this residency. I hope to present a piece of work that reflects my individual expression and growth as an artist,” says Rivera. “This residency is an opportunity to expand my knowledge and grow, not only as a choreographer, but a dancer as well.”

— NANCY WOZNY