Dance collaborative gives adult dancers a chance to perform

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Amdur, left, and King.

SHIRLEY – The ECHO Dance Collaborative bills itself as a “warm and welcoming environment” in which adults with a “passion for dance” can express themselves, emotionally and physically.

It was a perfect fit for Kimberly Bourassa and Catherine Jones, two local women who now dance with ECHO and will be in its upcoming performance on September 21 at the Hopkinton Center for the Arts.

The evening show includes a 6 pm cocktail hour, with access to the art gallery. Hopkinton Center for the Arts is located at 98 Hayden Rowe St. Tickets: $25. Call 978-618-1724 to reserve seats.

Bourassa and Jones  grew up in Shirley and as fellow alums of Maria’s School of Dance in Ayer, they both began dancing in early childhood.

As adults, both women are still passionate about dance.

Jones, a certified massage therapist at Compassion Therapeutic Massage in Westford, earned a four-year dance degree from Columbia College Chicago and later studied at the Bancroft School of Massage Therapy in Worcester.

Bourassa graduated from Worcester State University, works as a staff accountant for MAFY Account Services in Pepperell and teaches part-time at her childhood alma mater and other dance schools, including Nashoba Valley Movement in Clinton and another studio in Marlborough.

Currently, she’s also choreographing for a musical, “The Fantasticks” for an outfit called Studio Theater Worcester. That show runs Sept. 20-29.

While Chicago offered performance venues for Jones, on campus and off, she found none back home.

It was a similar scenario for Bourassa, who connected with ECHO through one of her teaching gigs.

Opportunities to dance and perform with and for adults, even as non-pros, may abound in cities like Chicago, New York or Boston. But they are few and far between in and around Shirley.

Both women welcomed the chance to join ECHO.

Bourassa and Jones will each perform in several pieces and have choreographed pieces of their own for ECHO’s upcoming show, ““Bound Together, Growing through relationships in time” with two performances, 3:30 pm and 7 pm. on Sept. 21, which, coincidentally, is National Dance Day.

The title captures the essence of this emerging summer dance group, now in its second year.

In recent interviews, co-directors/founders Kate Amdur and Travers King talked about its origins.

Amdur owns Spirit in Motion Dance Academy in Marlborough. She and King, “met through dance” and hit it off, she said, with “similar styles” and visions for the form and function of adult dance.

“I’ve always taught adult dance,” said Amdur, who holds graduate degrees in Dance Movement Therapy and Mental Health Counseling. “It’s a passion…when you have a passion, you should always allow it to continue,” she said.

Which is what ECHO is all about.

“The whole reason…was to create a safe environment for adults to dance,” King said. Not only in studio recitals, which traditionally cater to kids, but in a space all their own.

“Dancing helps you process feelings about what you have, need, want…” Amdur said.

King, who is the director at The House of Dance in Sudbury, earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Hawaii and an M.A. at London’s Contemporary Dance School. Returning to Hawaii, he taught ballet for several years and danced professionally with Ballet Hawaii.

‘”Then I came back here to teach,” he said. He’s been with the Sudbury studio for eight of its ten years in business and became director there four years ago.

“You get wrapped up in teaching children, (his studio enrolls students from age 2 ½) growing dancers…it’s great and I love it,” he said. But, like Amdur, he sought other outlets for his muse.

The two teachers concluded that other adult dancers might also feel the need to branch out and come together.

ECHO grew from that firmament.

Amdur said they started brainstorming. What if they could “get people together” for an adult performance? Not a student recital. No little ones. Just grown-up dancers. “What would it look like?”

Different. Like ECHO.

The seasonal model, for instance, frames around adult dancers’ busy lives, Amdur said. Family, career, other obligations. “That’s the benefit, if it fits, great, if not, take time off, “ maybe come back next year.

King agreed. A year-long commitment won’t work for most people, he said, especially those with kids. But a summer-only schedule is a different story.

Abilities “run the gamut,” Amdur said, from trained dancers to novices, no set skill level or requirements. But there is balance. Dancers audition so alignments work, by design.

One of King’s pieces this year incorporates the entire group.

The collaborative has about two dozen dancers this summer. Ages and careers vary. They come from over a dozen area communities, including Lowell, Chelmsford, Leominster, Lancaster and Shirley.

ECHO continues to welcome new members. “We always say, the more the merrier,” Amdur said.