'I think it's just fun': 'Dance Carousel' returns after an eleven-year hiatus
Nineteen years ago, dancer and choreographer Ellen Bartel created Dance Carousel, a fast-paced, nonstop show featuring the works of 10 choreographers in just 40 minutes. The format was simple but challenging – each choreographer had four one-minute chunks of time to create any sort of dance that struck their fancy, and they’d take turns, one minute at a time, until 40 minutes had gone by and the audience had seen 40 dances.
The show was popular with dancers, choreographers, and audiences and was an annual event for nine years until 2012, when Bartel’s husband Dave passed away, her life changed, and Dance Carousel stopped.
But now, after a brief eleven-year hiatus, the show is back – this time with the help of a new crew of younger choreographers and producers. Two of those producer/choreographers, Alexa Capareda and Emily Rushing, came by the KUT studios recently to talk about the 2023 version of Dance Carousel.
“We have 20 artists involved in this project that we divided into two groups,” Rushing explains. “So we've got a Carousel A show and a Carousel B. Each artist involved is showing four 60-second dances that we're presenting sort of in the round with no intermission [and] quick transitions, and it's a total of 40 minutes. So it's kind of just like fast-paced, go, go, go. Super fun.”
“And those four minute-long pieces don't necessarily have to be related to each other,” Capareda says. “They could be – some choreographers are doing that. Some can be completely different in tone. So you kind of get this fast-paced hodgepodge of different styles and different genres of performance art and dance.”
Each choreographer has a parameter on time, but not much else, so they can create solo works, duets, or even large ensemble pieces. Bartel’s piece in this year’s show features 20 dancers, according to Capareda and Rushing.
So what’s the meaning of it all? What is an audience meant to take away from a show like Dance Carousel?
“I think it's just fun,” Rushing says. “You know… I feel like it holds your interest with these quick little short little pieces. It's easy to kind of digest.”
“Yeah, I think [we want] as many different reactions to it as possible,” says Capareda. “Some people can be perhaps confused in the in the best way. Some people can be moved emotionally. Some people can laugh.”
It’s possible that Bartel was ahead of her time when she created the show in 2004, years before Tiktok and in a time when attention spans were still a little bit longer. “Yeah, I think the quick attention spans that we all have now actually really help with this because each thing is just a minute long,” Capareda says. “If something is not to your liking, it just lasts a minute and then it's on to the next minute. So I think there's just something for everybody in it. And it's a way to connect to dance and theater that may be a lot more accessible for someone who is not so familiar with it. So I do hope that we get some wild card audience members having fun.”