NORWAY — Thousands of miles and international borders do not stand in the way when dancers from Natal in Brazil’s Rio Grande do Norte and Maine’s town of Norway come together as part of an ongoing cultural exchange of ideas and art — this time, to simultaneously create a special performance in each location.

Performers from The Alberto Maranhao Theater Dance Company in Natal and from Art Moves Dance Ensemble in Norway have been learning a new dance that celebrates music from the 1940s big band era. The dance, called “Harlem Nocturno,” is 14 minutes of artistic expression through movement.

“’Harlem Nocturno’ is inspired by the music and the nostalgia of the big band years,” said Debi Irons, Art Moves owner and primary choreographer of the piece. “American soldiers stationed in Natal listened to the same music in the same building that CDTAM rehearses in today. It is dance music, and there is jazz, improvisation and ballroom in this piece.” 

The relationship between Irons and the Brazilian dance company began last fall, when Irons was invited to do a dance exchange with Natal, Brazil, through Partners of the Americas. Irons, who is always looking for ways to communicate with and share her dance, visited Brazil and performed with two dance companies there, including CDTAM, who then visited her studio in late July and early August.

While in Maine, dancers from both companies danced together to the premiere, “Cross My Heart,” a dance both groups learned in their respective locations.

They’re working on learning this dance in much the same way — only this time, each troupe will perform the dance in their own countries, and hopefully, they will have an opportunity to perform it together.

Irons, who is in Brazil, uses an iPhone to store her music and rehearsal videos, as well as communicate her choreography to her dancers in Norway. Using an app, she emails music to Juarez of CDTAM, who makes a CD so she can film rehearsals in Brazil in segments of 1 minute and 30 seconds, which she then sends to her dancers in Maine, who watch the video to learn the dance.

“The Ensemble in Maine really makes this possible,” Irons said. “They know all the dances and learn very quickly, as they already know my vocabulary and patterns, et cetera.”

Up to 30 dancers will perform Oct. 22 in Brazil on a huge, outdoor stage during a three-day festival of science, technology and culture, the CIENTEC Festival at the Federal University in Natal, according to Irons.

Five to seven more performers will perform the same dance on Nov. 7 in the Art Moves Dance Studio on Cottage Street in Norway during their previously planned gala event.

“There will be identical sections, and the feeling will be similar — but each dancer brings their own style, so it’s always different, always variations on the theme,” Irons said.

“Tuxedo Junction,” “Harlem Nocturne,” “Begin the Beguine” and “Stand-Up Bass” are the pieces that will make up the 14-minute dance medley.

Irons said that the first time her dancers of The Ensemble at Art Moves rehearsed with their Brazilian visitors this summer, the CDTAM dancers wanted to see all of The Ensemble’s dances, one of which was a theater jazz dance to a 1940s style cover of a recent song, “Stand-Up Bass.” The visitors loved the dance, but there was no time to learn it during their visit.

It just so happened that when the nonprofit Cottage Street Creative Exchange Inc., which supports Art Moves, decided on a theme for this year’s gala, it chose the 1940s — so Irons began working on the choreography for the medley.

CDTAM never forgot about the dance that impressed them so much while they were here and it was the first thing they asked to learn upon Irons’ arrival in Brazil. If the CDTAM dancers are able to return to Maine in the spring, then the two dance companies will have an opportunity to perform the piece together, which will be the second time the groups will have experienced such a collaboration — the first time being this past summer.

“Like Sasha said, last summer when we were all together, ‘You finally have your global dance company,'” Irons said. “It brought me unbridled joy to watch them all dance together seamlessly — like it had always been that way.”

Having an opportunity to share ideas and experience art through the eyes of another culture is enriching to all those involved, Irons said.

“People are people,” she said. “Nearly all people love music and love to eat and laugh together. It just so happens that all of these people love to dance. For me, personally, I am no longer afraid of creating something wonderful out of almost nothing. I see Brazilians do it everyday — dar um jeito — find a way.”

CDTAM is a state dance company, with professional dancers whose jobs are to dance — so it is easier for them to take the time off to travel to Maine than it is for the dancers in Maine to take the time off from their regular jobs to travel to Brazil.

There are other differences between the troupes. For instance, in “Harlem Nocturno,” dancers from two companies in Natal will take turns on the stage during different parts of the 14-minute dance, so that no dancer is on the stage the entire time. In The Ensemble, because there are so few dancers performing the piece, all of the dancers will be on stage for at least 12 minutes.

Irons said both dance troupes’ training has prepared them for the endurance needed to perform the long piece.

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