There are plenty of opportunities to see visions of sugar plum fairies dance across Denver stages this season. But Edgar Page wants to offer audiences something different.
Edgar L. Page: Feel the Movement will perform The Intersection of Truth and Beauty on Friday, November 29, at the Studio Loft at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. The concert includes original choreography by Page and spoken word by local poet Ksusha Kaye. "I want people to see the beauty of all our intersecting lives," Page says.
The show addresses themes of joy, connection, recovery from sexual assault and the dissolution of friendships.
Kaye's poems from her 2019 book Kissed by the Rising Sun were not written in conjunction with the choreography, she says, yet they complement the dances. "It feels like we speak the same language," she says of Page and his choreography. "These pieces are powerful, and for the dancers, it's personal. And this is personal for me."
The company, now in its second season, was born of Page's desire to change the way dancers — and their audiences — experience the art form. Roughly two years ago, Page retired from a ten-year career as a professional dancer, during which he worked at Denver's Cleo Parker Robinson Dance and the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company in Ohio. "Dancing was becoming a chore," he says. "I was showing up to my job."
After retiring, Page performed a duet at the Presenting Denver Dance Festival with Saidiya Imari, a fellow Cleo Parker Robinson Dance and Dayton Contemporary Dance Company alumni. "There was so much interest in his work," says Imari, who is the associate artistic director and rehearsal director for Edgar L. Page. "I told him, if you want to get your work out there, you have to start a company. People want to see your work. We have to do it."
Two conservatory-trained professional dancers might seem like an ordinary, if promising, start to a dance company. But Page wanted to focus on the things he didn't get as a performer — like a chance for dancers to express themselves fully, not only as tools for realizing a director's vision.
"I spent so long working for others," he says. "Having them tell me what to do — and I don't have a say."
To bring greater depth and variety to his company, Page decided to recruit not only formally trained and professional dancers, but also people who are not part of the established dance community. He met many members of the company through free dance classes he offers with the support of city grants.
Alex Keldin is a 49-year-old teacher and mother of three who started dancing a few years ago because she wanted a fun way to exercise. "I call Zumba the great gateway," Keldin says. She took Zumba classes at Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, and eventually noticed there were some other, more formal dance classes she wanted to try. She signed up for beginner modern dance. Today, between classes and company rehearsals, Keldin dances about thirty hours a week.
She never saw herself as a performer, but she's glad Page recognized something in her that she didn't. "This has affected me in my professional life," the first-grade teacher says. "I know I can push kids out of their comfort zone, but not too much."
Alex's friend and fellow teacher, Alyssa Henningsen, 28, is one of the company's original members. She grew up in the world of competitive dance, but stopped dancing after college. Four years into her teaching career, she realized that she needed to do something to care for herself and her mental health.
"I thought, what's something that I really love, that I miss?" she says. It was dancing. "It was incredible to bring my passion back into my life."
For Page, too, the company is a return to his passions and his dreams. "I always wanted to dance, and dance was always in me," Page says. But he grew up in Detroit, with parents who hoped he'd study hard and become an engineer, a doctor or a lawyer.
At thirteen, he saw Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk with his family and secretly signed up for dance classes instead of gym. In the early years of his training, Page said that someday he'd have his own dance company. But it wasn't a goal he thought of much, until his career as a dancer ended.
"This is a lot of work," Page says. "But the universe reminded me what I want to do. I want to really express my love of dance."
Edgar L. Page: Feel the Movement premieres The Intersection of Truth and Beauty, at 7 p.m. Friday, November 29, at the Studio Loft at the Ellie Caulkins in the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Get tickets (if any are left) at axs.com.