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Raw emotion, hard work reflected in Novel Dance Co. performance

Dancers collaborate for message of resilience by Becca Martin-Brown | March 26, 2023 at 1:00 a.m.
Mary Forrest (from left) Marissa Culbreath and Olivia Ramsey rehearse March 21 2023 for the dance performance, "Undone." NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

"I want to live in a world where dance is not a privilege, but a right."

That's how Lyle Oberman approaches training at her Novel Dance Company, founded in Nashville, Tenn., and relocated to Northwest Arkansas in 2022.

"Dance studio training is expensive, dance professionals are typically young, able-bodied individuals who have had studio training, and the general public often misses opportunities to see dance being performed due to an inaccessible structure," Oberman says. "Novel Dance Company is a nonprofit organization that aims to bring education, recreation, and professional development to those that seek dance.

"We currently host an after school dance program at the Arkansas Arts Academy that runs on a sliding scale payment system," she continues. "This program is open to all students, even those outside this institution. Every week we have a free adult dance class that is open to all people regardless of training, age and previous abilities. Every year, several dance performances are put on throughout the community, and our season culminates in one large-scale production that is our main event! This year the event is titled 'Undone.'"

Marissa Culbreath, who took Arkansas Public Theatre by storm in 2021's repertory productions of "Our Town" and "Inherit the Wind," was and is a dancer first.

"My passion for dance stems from my love of music and movement," she says. "I've been moving since I was a little girl, and I've been doing organized dance since I was a teen. I find joy in performance and the spotlight. It's what keeps me going.

"I was involved in a past performance for Novel Dance Company, and Lyle and I hit it off. We work really well together. And I love when she lets me be myself within her pieces."

Culbreath says audiences should expect to see "raw feeling and emotion through movement. They will see stories told with bodies. They will also see and feel community on and off the stage."

"The audience should know that the understanding of the art is truly in the eye of the beholder," she explains. "We want them to take away whatever they feel on their hearts, whatever moves them."

Oberman was born and raised in New York and has been dancing since she took her first ballet class at age 2 "and never looked back."

"I have had an immense privilege in having access to dance training at a young age and throughout my adult career," she says. "Understanding my vantage point, I am creating a door to opportunities for other artists to train, learn, perform and observe dance."

The idea behind "Undone" "stemmed from questioning the labels that are put in place in our society," Oberman says. "We are researching what our labels mean, which are important to have, and what happens if/when they can be stripped away.

"We are living in a world where self-identity and expression is wildly important and also extremely dangerous to those who don't fit the 'mainstream,'" she adds. "Each dancer is on an individual project with themself alongside each other; what happens next is the magic of art development...

"The work is dense on the back end, but the performance is a party," Oberman concludes. "We celebrate who we are, shed light on what hurts, and build a resilient, strong, loving community that can appreciate the healing and exciting nature of dance! I hope this performance serves as a springboard to other opportunities for dancers."



WHEN -- 8 p.m. March 31

WHERE -- Meteor Guitar Gallery in Bentonville

COST -- $34

INFO -- or

  photo  Mary Forrest (from left), Olivia Ramsey, Sawyer Harvey and Marissa Culbreath rehearse March 21 2023 for the dance performance, "Undone." (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
  photo  Sawyer Harvey (from left), Mary Forrest, Olivia Ramsey and Marissa Culbreath rehearse March 21 2023 for the dance performance, "Undone." (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

Print Headline: ‘Raw Emotion’


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