Sola at USF — dance by women, for women

USF's new dance performance defies restraints on artists in the 21st century.


Bliss Kohlmyer
  • Bliss Kohlmyer

In its most treacherous moments, the world of an artist is wrought with self-doubt and fear. The ability to produce, to create something out of nothing with sparse funding and support, is a daunting feat. 

Andee Scott — an assistant professor of modern dance and choreography at the University of South Florida — has spent the last decade of her career challenging the personal/societal limitations that creep up on professional creatives.

Scott’s newest project, Sola, is a medley six dance solos, choreographed by women for women. Sola will make its debut at the University of South Florida on Aug. 29 at 8 p.m. and have a repeat showing on the following night. The performance will tour the United States, making stops in New York, Michigan, Texas and Vermont through the course of the next year.

Scott’s first foray into the exploration of women’s place in dance was Woman’s Work: Reconstruction of Self, which she produced while living in Austin, Texas. She commissioned five solo pieces from female dancers around the world, through personal and professional connections.

Andee Scott
  • Andee Scott
According to Scott, one of her primary goals has always been to gather talented women for the purpose of showcasing what they do artistically.

“My field is predominantly populated by women, but often run by men. It can be really frustrating sometimes,” Scott said. “For me, it’s very important that women run things and do things, and women are highlighted and get credit for things.”

An overarching challenge for artists in the 21st century is the lack of funding for projects. Big funding existed for dance in the 1980s, and has since dwindled significantly for anything except large projects. The result – a limitation of creative possibilities for artists. Scott said that within her teachings at USF and her professional projects, she rejects the restraints placed on artists.

“I teach dance to young people, and what I like to say to them all the time is that I’m not teaching you to enter the field — you are the field,” Scott said. “We all have to take ownership over our field and how we want to exist in it and how we want to be represented in it. We have a right to shape it.”

Mary Williford-Shade
  • Mary Williford-Shade
All six women involved in Sola, which Scott has been brainstorming for about four years, come from the world of academia. The ability to use academic resources, like faculty travel money, alleviated some financial stress within the conception of the project, along with the willingness of the choreographers/dancers to arrange lodging for one another from state to state during the tour.

While visiting each university, the choreographers/dancers – Amy Chavasse (MI), Tzveta Kassabova (VT), Pam Pietro (NY), Mary Williford-Shade (TX) and USF’s Andee Scott and Bliss Kohlmyer – will teach a Masters course. Each woman will choreograph and perform in their own pieces as an illustration of the power of femininity in dance. Professionally, the women are all seasoned performers.

“We’re all older — none of us are in our twenties. There’s something about the mature female artist,” Scott said. “It’s really exciting, because we don’t have that many honest depictions of how we grow older. In my field, there is a big emphasis on youth. It’s nice to see all of us — it’s not important how high we can get our leg up. It’s something more…it’s about the energy of it.”

Creating a sense of community is a driving force behind Scott’s ideology about the state of the arts in contemporary culture. As a response, she has created a project called Dance Linkages. Sola is the inaugural project produced by Dance Linkages.

According to Scott, Dance Linkages is an “umbrella idea” that provides a structure for linking artists, ideas, disciplines and genres.

“The point is we try something and create some kind of energy – to link things,” Scott said. “It is great when we have more than one voice in the conversation. Then, it becomes something you could never predict.”

Dance Linkages also aims to engage the community in arts at the university level and maximize locally to create work globally.

“In dance, there is a big divide between university and community,” Scott said. “It would be nice to pierce that, and remember that there is room for all of us. I believe we are better together than we are divided.”

According to Scott, taking Sola on a “micro-tour” through several cities across the country allows the art to live more than once. Scott and the five other performers who have brought Sola to life seem to have done so in an unfavorable artistic climate.

“There is a right and a responsibility to being an artist — to yourself and to the field,” Scott said. “The goal is that ‘starving’ is not part of ‘artist.’ We’ll try to do this simply the first time around, then we can build an infrastructure — an organization that can respond to everything.”

Sola will debut Aug. 29-30 at 8 p.m. at the University of South Florida Theater 2,  4202 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa.

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