Lots of little kids take a dance class or two, but most won’t make a career of it. Sometimes, however, a special child comes along who has the talent and drive, along with the family support needed, to keep investing in dance for a lifetime. Choreographer Vanessa Martin was one of those lucky kids, who had big aspirations and a parent to back her up.
“When I was three, I told my mom I wanted to be a tap dancer,” Martin says. Her mom encouraged her, and this past year, Martin started her own dance studio in the same space where she learned her first time step, 26 years ago. A native Eugenean, Martin danced at South Eugene High School, and at the UO and LCC. She’s been choreographing professionally ever since.
“My mom just always pushed for me to dance, and to follow my dreams in that way,” Martin says.
Now, with Martin’s Xcape Dance Company heading towards its Hult Center premiere, she misses her mom acutely.
This September, Martin’s mother, Cindy Kieffer, the department director for the American English Institute at the UO, succumbed to a massive infection, leaving Martin, a mother of two small children herself, emotionally devastated and wondering how to move forward, let alone finish her artistic work.
“The show was in-progress before she passed away,” Martin says. “Since she passed, it’s been difficult to keep pressing on. But there have been a lot of people who’ve put in a lot of input.”
The adage says “The show must go on,” and it was Martin’s company members that helped to revive her spirits. In rehearsal, the Xcape dancers provided artistic contributions while buoying Martin with support and good cheer.
“This group is positive, uplifting,” Martin says. “And talented.”
The show, Love!, premieres at the Hult Center Saturday, Nov.15, and will feature the 21 Xcape dancers, along with guest artists, including Work Dance Company, Kings Krew, Flex Studios, Duck Street Dance Crew, Dance Northwest, ZAPP Academy of Dance and the UO Jam Squad. The performance is a benefit for Danceability International.
Martin has pulled together this diverse crowd to create a unique narrative and a strong artistic statement. “I thrive on street-style dance, old school hip-hop and energy-based dance,” she says. “I’m really about good, big energy!”
Love! is dedicated to Martin’s mom.
“In the original idea, I was going for serious,” Martin says. “But it’s ended up a fun, life-affirming show instead.”
Love! shows for one night only 7:30 pm Saturday, Nov. 15, at the Hult Center’s Soreng Theater; $20, student and youth discounts available.