To say dancer Clarissa Root is prepared for dAnce.Kontemporary's "Carnival" performance Saturday would be an understatement.
Root spent the summer learning how to spin some hula hoop tricks she could incorporate into the dance company's eclectic contemporary performance.
"It makes it a little more tricky, and a little more tiring, but it adds a new aspect to all of our dances," she says.
A resident dance company of Wunderkammer Company now in its second season, dAnce.Kontemporary's "Carnival" will feature nine dancers in solo and group performances to tell the family-friendly story of how nine circus characters became friends. Co-directors Alison Gerardot and Kara Wilson choreographed dances for all the characters, which include a jester, musician, contortionist, bird girl, acrobat and even a bearded lady.
"It's so heartwarming. I just want people to leave feeling so happy and just joyful," Gerardot says. "All of our dancers are just phenomenal."
Gerardot says the dance company offers a professional opportunity for skilled dancers who might not have had the chance to pursue dance in college or are looking to perform contemporary styles. After discussing the lack of dance companies in the area, Gerardot says she and Wilson decided to start dAnce.Kontemporary in 2012.
"It's just one more reason for dancers to stay here," Gerardot says. "It's about the retention of talent. They get paid a lot of times to do performances, and it's the only opportunity in town to do something that isn't strictly ballet."
Gerardot says the show was first inspired by the idea of doing a dance company photo shoot at an amusement park, which then transformed into an entire performance. She says the dances range from a strong lady who forgets her own strength to light-hearted pieces such as Root's hula hoop performance.
Root says that although she started off knowing how to hula hoop, she went to YouTube to learn how to perform tricks.
"We just sent her a text saying, 'So how do you feel about hula hooping?' " Gerardot says, laughing. "She actually taught herself religiously to do hula hoop tricks. It's been pretty fun."
Root, 22, has been dancing since was she 3 years old. Growing up, she performed ballet, jazz, hip-hop and tap through middle and high school. She says dAnce.Kontemporary is a great opportunity to expand a dancer's creativity.
"It's more about the artistic side of dancing more than the competitive side that I was used to," Root says. "I think it has made us (dancers) all want to pursue dance more."
Gerardot says dAnce.Kontemporary not only fills a need for local dance companies, it also sets out to make concert dancing accessible. Gerardot says the company's performance often is connected to a story to make it easier to follow.
"When it's dance for dance sake, people tend to get turned off in our area. If you bring in storytelling, it makes it more relatable," she says. "I think when you use storytelling, your audience gets a longer-lasting impact."