Truth is found in so many things. Like Mya Broyles’ mom.
“Tell me what’s true about your mom,” choreographer Mina Estrada said.
“She loves to dance,” answered 5-year-old Mya.
That’s a truth about Mya, too, and Estrada is choreographing these truths into a tiny dance to be performed upon a tiny stage.
The program, “Ten Tiny Dances,” is set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 25, in the Hartley/Vey Studio Theatre in the Shaw Center for the Arts.
The idea was suggested to Estrada, who contacted nine choreographers and gave them one assignment: create a dance for a 4-by-4-foot elevated stage. The dance could be any genre, and it could incorporate as many people as the choreographer wished.
“Some of the choreographers chose to use other dancers,” Estrada says. “I’m the only one who chose to create a dance with a child.”
Mya’s mom, dancer Clair Broyles, has worked with Estrada on past projects. She immediately gave Estrada the OK for the project.
Estrada meets with Mya most weekday afternoons on the small stage, which has been placed in the Hartley/Vey Workshop space. On some days, she asks Mya to tell stories as they dance.
On this day, she asked Mya to talk about things that are true.
“I’ve been recording her, and I’m thinking about using the recordings as a soundscape for our dance,” Estrada says. “She’s so creative and full of life, but if she should decide not to do this when there’s an audience, I have a backup dance ready to go.”
Estrada was a choreographer in Philadelphia before moving to Baton Rouge. Her husband moved south first for his job, and she followed shortly thereafter. She’s worked with the Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre and is now the Manship Theatre’s education and outreach coordinator.
And she sees potential for outreach through “Ten Tiny Dances.”
“The beautiful part about all of this is that this program is so mobile,” she says. “The stage can be moved anywhere. It could be performed in the lobby or outside.”
Or even in schools, where many children aren’t exposed to dance.
The concept was developed by Portland, Oregon, choreographer and producer Mike Barber. Baton Rouge native Coco Loupe, who teaches dance at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, introduced Estrada to the idea.
Loupe also has choreographed a dance for the show as have Sandra Parks, director of the LSU Dance Program; Renee Chatelain, executive director of the Manship Theatre; New Orleans dance artists J. Hammons and Maritza Mercado-Narcisse; Tulane faculty member and dance artist Jeffrey Gunshol; Dallas dance artist Amiti Perry; choreographers Anna Schwab, of Baton Rouge, and Calvin Rowe, of New Orleans; Baton Rouge dancer and choreographer Leonard Augustus; and Arizona Flamenco dance artist Lena Jacome.
Their biggest challenge was creating a dance for a confined space, which opened the door to new possibilities.
Choreographers must think about their work in a different way.
“Some of these dancers won’t rehearse on the actual stage until the day of the event,” Estrada says. “A lot of them have taped off a 4-by-4 space in their homes or their studios, but the stage is elevated 18 inches.”
That may not seem very tall in conversation, but it’s enough to give non-dancers jitters when seeing it in person.
“We have one dancer coming in from New Orleans on the day of the performance,” Estrada says. “He says he’s just going to whip in. I told him we’d get him on the stage as soon as he comes in. It’s something you have to get used to.”
But this isn’t a worry for Mya. She’s a natural on a 4-by-4 stage.