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Home | Children's Theatre Company

What is Animal Dance all about?

We are excited to present Animal Dance, a world premiere production specially designed for preschool age children. This new work developed by renowned post-modern choreographer and dancer, Ann Carlson stars real baby goats, chickens, dogs, bunnies, goldfish, and a tortoise onstage. Carlson will utilize abstract narrative and post-modern gestural movement alongside the animals moving in their natural way. For over 30 years, Carlson has made a niche specialty in the dance world of using dance to illuminate the intersection between human and animal. Animal Dance seeks to demonstrate for an audience of very young children, the importance and majesty of witnessing the purely natural behavior of animals. It is a gently unpredictable performance, different each time as the dancer takes cues from and with the animals.

Animal Dance embraces the idea that all human and animal movement is a kind of dance – a celebration of how people and animals use their bodies to express themselves and to engage with their world. Often, dance is a series of choreographed steps and movements that are set and are performed the same way every time. But, in Animal Dance, the animals are not trained to perform certain things, the way they might be in a circus or, say, in a dolphin show. They are just moving and being – naturally! That is true of Ann Carlson, the performer, as well. Her movements are not set. Either, she is responding with her body to the actions of the animals, or she is using her skills as a performer to respond in the moment to whatever the animals are doing. Every day, every performance, is a new "dance" designed to help the very young see and appreciate the unique and special qualities of the different animals and to model a way of using their own bodies to express and explore their feelings and their relationship to the world around them.

Hamline University faculty and author of Connecting Animals and Children in Early Childhood, Patty Born-Selly, is particularly enthusiastic about this new work as it relates to the deep research on the intersection of animals and young children she has conducted. She states, “Animal Dance is a celebration not just of animals, but of the playful curiosity and reverence that adults and children feel for them. It will provoke questions, ideas, and a feeling of joy. Ann playfully, gently, and thoughtfully interacts with animals in many of the same ways that children do: with curiosity, a sense of wonder, and reverence for animals."

Recently, American Theatre Magazine covered this exciting new production, talking with show creators Ann Carlson and Artistic Director Peter C. Brosius about the creation of the piece.

American Theatre Magazine  article, April 2016 — “Never work with children or animals,” goes a maxim often credited to actor W.C. Fields. However, Carlson actually enjoys both children (she’s a mother herself) and animals (having incorporated them into her shows since the ’80s). So when the opportunity came to combine the two, she took it as a challenge. “I think that there was a part of me that was taking on that adage, tongue-in-cheekily,” she admits.

Carlson first began dancing with live animals in the 1988 Animals, her second full-length work, which premiered at the Bessie Schonberg Theater at New York Live Arts. Whether examining the flight-or-fight mecha­nism with goats in “Scared Goats Faint,” or exhibiting motherly instincts in “Visit woman move story cat cat cat”—in which a nude Carlson frolicked with a kitten before pick­­­ing it up with her mouth—Animals featured a series of explorations of the similarities and differences between animals and humans. She toured the work until 1996 (and graced the cover of the July/August ’92 edition ofAmerican Theatre with a kitten in her hand).

“Part of my approach and curiosity had to do with: Could the stage space be a place where these animals could be welcomed and could they be themselves?” she says. “Not trained to do tricks but just be held in the attention of the viewer with certain parameters? I was working with, in my mind, what their natural tendencies were.”

Read the full article here

Which One is Dance?

Take a look at the three videos below. After viewing all three, which of them would you say is dance?            

Answer: You may thinking that the first two videos could only be considered ‘dance.’ Yet, the third is in fact, also dance. In it, Animal Dance choreographer and performer, Ann Carlson, uses everyday movement and sounds, rather than specialized steps, to create a dance.
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