Fringe Fest: Salt Lake City’s Fem Dance Company Debuts ‘Home Bass’

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Fem Dance Company Dancers performing “home bass” at the Fringe Festival in Salt Lake City Utah. (Photo by Rob Lester | Courtesy Fem Dance Company)

By Paige Gardner, Assistant Arts Editor

 

Director of Fem Dance Company, Alicia Ross, debuted “home bass” at this year’s Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival, held at the Gateway Mall in Salt Lake City. Ross is a University of Utah alum making big waves in the dance community here in Salt Lake and is committed to empowering women artists and artists of marginalized genders through dance.

Fem Dance Company Dancers Rehearsing for ‘home bass.’ (Photo by Alicia Ross | Courtesy Fem Dance Company)

Fem Dance Co.

From the fest’s website: “Fem Dance Company is a new movement collective that strives to represent and empower female artists. Based in Salt Lake City, the company was founded by Artistic Director Alicia Ross and consists of five movement artists — Ruby Cabbell, Jorji Diaz-Fadel, Christi Harris, Nicole Smith, and Becca Speechley.”

The formation of this group happened this year after a difficult season for performers and artists alike. Fem Dance Company sets itself apart from other dance companies in Salt Lake, like Ballet West for example, by focusing on contemporary dance and women’s empowerment. These two central elements are helping Fem Dance Company make a name for themselves and pave the way for other contemporary dancers in the valley. 

“home bass”

Per the fest’s website: “Home is a feeling, not a place. So what makes us feel at home? In this show, the artists of fem dance co. explore how the bass of the music provides a safe and comfortable feeling. While in the womb, we develop a strong connection to the low-frequency sounds of our mother’s heartbeat, pulsing blood flow, and the rhythm of her voice. This connection stays with us for the rest of our lives, manifesting in our love for heavy bass music. This is what makes us feel at home.” 

The double meaning in the show’s title is perfect for a piece that explores the feeling of “home” that comes from listening to bass music. Humans have been drumming for more than 7,000 years, using drums for not only music but for many other culturally important occasions like rituals or warfare. Whether participating in a drum circle or a religious ceremony, it seems the tradition of drumming often goes hand-in-hand with a desire for community, belonging and strength. 

Fem Dance Company interprets the sound we hear in the womb, the beating heart of the person carrying us, as the reason humans appreciate low-frequency sounds like bass. Using their bodies to express this connection through dance set to heavy bass music was an incredibly powerful illustration of that. 

Choreography

During their Fringe Festival performance, the dancers started out in darkness, huddled together at the center of the floor. As the music started and the lights turned on, they moved apart and began dancing slowly, matching the pace of the music. As the rhythm quickened, so did the well-orchestrated movements of the dancers. The dancers were moving separately for most of the performance, but the few synchronized portions gave you a sense of how much thought was put into each gesture and made the individual components seem less random. 

While it might not be completely revolutionary to dance to bass music because humans have always done this, the choreography in “home bass” felt more intentional than that. The contemporary, organic movements made by the dancers were different from what you might expect from the type of music the dancing was set to. The mix of hip hop and new-age instrumental music alongside the expressive choreography completely removed the songs from their place in the zeitgeist and left you to focus on their beats and consider the message behind the performance. 

Fem Dance Company will be performing “home bass” through the duration of the Fringe Festival, tickets can be found here.

 

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