Experimental choreography comes downtown

Story and photos by Mike Tripp, contributor

Amy Dawn Hamburger moves slowly as part of TRYST’s performance outside the Arts Council of the Valley on Saturday evening, Sept. 18.

With the sun setting, TRYST dancers take to their stage of grass.

They perform under trees behind the Arts Council of the Valley, ringed by lights illuminating the dusk.

“TRYST is improvised and devised choreography,” explains Anne Paulus.

She speaks of the style of dance performed by the group she originally founded with Shauna Frantz and Jenna Bryant in 2018.

Megan Frantz Kaspar moves slowly through her dance movements, with Katie Mansfield and Liz Marin behind her, at the start of TRYST’s performance.
Benjamin Kaspar swings arms and hands upward as part of his dance, one of several dancers with TRYST performing.
Anne Paulus reaches downward while arching back as part of her dance.

“We originally started working together with experimental choreography from a background of contact improvisation, devised theater, physical theater, permaculture and authentic movement,” she continues.  

“We each had these different backgrounds and sort of came together to try and work through these things in an embodied way.”

So, they began experimenting with practices encountered at workshops, each bringing their own piece to the table.

“We were just kind of tentative at first, and then we started saying … ‘I think we’re gonna do something together,’” said Anne. “I think we’re going to create something.”

And they did: TRYST.

Anne Paulus turns head to the side while arched backwards, dancing as the performers move slowly at first, picking up speed as the moments pass.

“Our work basically has three themes that we work with,” Paulus said.

The first is the relationship with the self. The second is the relationship with the more-than human world … nature, ecology.

The third is the relation with community.

“And how all of those are deeply connected,” she adds.

“A huge challenge to our society as we live now is actually a lack of connection — a disembodiment.”

(From Left) Jenna Bryant, Liz Marin, Megan Frantz Kaspar, Shauna Frantz and Benjamin Kaspar dance near one another, slowly moving closer.
Liz Marin lifts her head high as she joins Jenna Bryant, Amy Dawn Hamburger and the other dancers in sounding a single harmonious sound as one.

What’s it like to perform?

“When you’re doing it, you’re thinking … ‘Gosh, this is so weird. No one is going to understand what we’re doing,’” she said of a past performance.

“But I guess it really spoke to people, so we were like … ‘Ok, let’s keep going!’”

Having previously performed at Rawley Springs, the group wanted to bring their show this past weekend into town.

“We are interested in the connection to nature and are interesting in the connection with community so decided to do something in downtown Harrisonburg,” she says.

And outreach helped find the other dancers.

“We put on a series of public workshops in picnic shelters in the parks and from that got some people together to put on this performance,” says Anne.

Members of the audience applaud the dancers with TRYST who performed outside the Arts Council of the Valley on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021.

Over four days, the group worked together to create what the Friday and Saturday evening audiences would experience. 

“Collaboration is key,” she says.

“We are all definitely all fully co-directors.”

Dancers with TRYST lift hands to the sky as one.

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