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Thursday, January 21, 2016

With "Mud Tracks," Big Muddy Aims to Bring Flash Mob Audiences to the Theater

Posted By on Thu, Jan 21, 2016 at 6:00 AM

click to enlarge PHOTO BY GERRY LOVE.
  • Photo by Gerry Love.

Whether you're a dance aficionado or have never dared to step on the dance floor, the Big Muddy Dance Company is for you. Yes, even you, sir, who claims that dance is for sissies (PS, it's not. You try dancing on your toes all day with a smile on your face.) 

While some dance troupes may err on the side of owning a very distinct, consistent style throughout all their work, artistic director Brian Enos explains that Big Muddy has a diverse repertoire that appeals to a variety of people. 

"We try to have something for everybody," Enos says of the contemporary company, which was founded in St. Louis in May 2010. People often tell him after performances how much they connected with the dancers as they saw them take on so many different roles and kinds of choreography. And Big Muddy actively works to create dance that is accessible to people that aren’t necessarily dance fanatics.

“We have a lot of fans who are not fans of dance but of Big Muddy," he says.

This weekend's new production,
 Mud Tracks, which is being presented Friday and Saturday night at The Pageant, is a great example of that. It has its origins in the company's flash mob performances — with an interactive element designed to bring in new fans, not just people already interested in dance.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY GERRY LOVE.
  • Photo by Gerry Love.

As Enos explains, the show's concept was formed even before he became artistic director in November 2014. Then Big Muddy started flashmob-style performances of their repertoire in public spaces throughout the St. Louis area in August.  Afterward, company members began interviewing bystanders about their reactions and giving them half-off discounts to Mud Tracks (you can see these short interviews on their Instagram and Facebook accounts). 

The mini performances have been steps leading up to the actual show, hence the name “Mud Tracks.” Six unique works, each by a different choreographer, are on display. Of the six, five of them will be St. Louis premieres, and three of them will be world premieres. 

One participating choreographer of note is 2015 Princess Grace Choreography Fellowship recipient Joshua Manculich. Big Muddy nominated Manculich for the prestigious award, which is granted to emerging talent in dance. They got the call this summer that he was receiving it. Now, this professional dancer/choreographer/grad student has choreographed one of the world premieres at Mud Tracks.

Working with Manculich was transformative for the company, Enos says. “He has such an incredibly unique choreographic voice…..his movement vocabulary is so uniquely his."

Enos adds, "He has such a generous spirit in the way he worked with the dancers."

Other choreographers include Giordano Dance Chicago Assistant Artistic Director Autumn Eckman and Enos, who will be presenting a piece originally choreographed for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago called "Diphthong."

click to enlarge PHOTO BY GERRY LOVE.
  • Photo by Gerry Love.

But enough about titles and accolades — while Enos hopes you connect with Mud Tracks in some way, he ultimately wants you to walk away entertained. So no worries if you don't know the difference between a passé and a plié. Enos says that Big Muddy is a great introduction to dance, in a non-threatening environment that doesn't demand overthinking. And if you're already a dance lover or Big Muddy fan, well then, more power to you.

Oh, and don't think Big Muddy is going anywhere any time soon. The company has four more events on the schedule for this season, with aspirations to expand the repertoire and choreographers for coming years — and, overall, grow dance in St. Louis. 

Mud Tracks will be performed two nights at the Pageant — Friday, January 22 and Saturday, January 23, both at 8 p.m. For ticket information, see 

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