The Walker’s support of local artists is unassailable when it comes to contemporary dance. Every Thanksgiving weekend, our Choreographers Evening presents about a dozen young and emerging dancemakers — many making their first appearances at the Walker. This has gone on for more than 30 years, and the Walker can cover an entire dance floor with the names active artists who can chart their starts through Choreographers Evening. For some, the showcase has also been a stepladder into Momentum: New Dance Works, which the Walker presents over two weekends with (and at) the Southern Theater.
Next weekend’s Momentum opener spotlights new work from Chris Schlichting, a familiar face in avant garde local dance, and the hip-hop-inspired duo of Maia Maiden and Ellena Schoop. The following weekend gives rise to Anna Marie Shogren and Eddie Oroyan. Don’t be surprised if one or more follow in the steps of local artists such as Mathew Janczewski and Emily Johnson to earn full commissions from the Walker.
In pure cash, Momentum commissions are relatively modest compared to, say, the budget for the Walker to bring in an established artist to workshop new work and perform it, coupled with a residency, though the commissions also come with technical, administrative and marketing support from the Walker and Southern. As it happens, choreographers lucky enough to earn Momentum slots rarely pay themselves with commission funds, more often using them to rent studios and pay the dancers, composers and others who, to that point, have worked chiefly on the familiar artist barter of time and talent.
You don’t have to consider yourself a fan of contemporary dance to find charm in Momentum — just a supporter in the flight of local art. Momentum is a plus sign in the artist equation Talent + Commitment + Opportunity = Good Things. While Momentum is likely the first work you’ll see (or at least consciously notice) from these artists, it won’t be the last. Regardless of where or how we hear from them next, those who come through Momentum can stand alongside the likes of Trisha Brown, Merce Cunningham and Ralph Lemon as “Walker artists.”
IMAGES (clockwise, from upper left): Chris Schlichting; Maia Maiden and Ellena Schoop; Anna Marie Shogren; Eddie Oroyan.