Nathalie Quiros is sitting a few feet across from me in a room next to Fresno State’s theater box office. We’re chatting about the dance she choreographed for the annual Contemporary Dance Ensemble concert. To demonstrate a move, she flings out her arm in a razor-sharp motion.
“I call that an outward flick,” she says.
I like that word: flick.
So does Quiros.
It sounds quicker than a brushing motion. It’s more abrupt than a sweep or a graze. To flick is to dart — to pounce and then retract. The word makes me think of a motionless frog whose tongue suddenly snaps out to catch a fly.
Quiros is the designated student choreographer for the concert, and she’s poured heart and sole into the creation of “Esoteric Flux,” an 11-minute work she calls “very abstract.” To her, the piece is about how time can skip and start.
“You’ll see various staccato movements, which reflects being stuck in time,” she says.
How it can flick unevenly along.
It’s quite an endeavor, this idea of a student being given the responsibility to design, cast and choreograph a number in the show. Kenneth Balint, a Fresno State dance professor and artistic director of CDE, says that Quiros was up for the challenge.
“First and foremost, Nathalie is a talented mover and thinker,” he says. “Beyond that I saw an active passion for creative activity in movement that needed a place to thrive.”
Quiros describes her piece as a mix of modern and contemporary — and definitely on the “weird” side. Nine dancers — three of them men — move to a series of atmospheric pieces of music. The group Pansonic provides a soundtrack that brings to mind edgy static — “almost like a TV that doesn’t work,” she says. Andy Stott’s techno sound is stark and unsettling. A selection from the musical group Raime is like a midway point between the two other styles.
Combined with the unexpected jumpiness of her choreography, the music helps create a jittery, mood.
Balint is impressed with the complexity of “Esoteric Flux.”
“The word that comes to mind is ambitious,” he says. “It is a mentally and physically demanding work that she has organized, nurtured and refined. Nathalie and the dancers she has led have done a remarkable job in bringing her artistic intent to life.”
The concert, titled “Epistêmê,” features a repertoire performance of six dance works, including five premieres. Many of the 15 dancers are dance majors or minors.
“The title is a reflection to both the dancers’ and the dance observers’ ability to understand or be aware of what is happening at any given time,” Balint says. “One of the dance works in the second half bears the title ‘Episteme 1-2-3.’ That work sets out to define a set of specific moments throughout three distinct time periods of their lives of two dancers.”
There’s life for “Esoteric Flux” after the concert as well. It will be one of two pieces that Fresno State is bringing to the American College Dance Association’s regional conference at Arizona State University in March. There it will be adjudicated by a panel of nationally recognized dance professionals.
For Quiros, the chance to choreograph a work of her own has been eye-opening. She’s been a dancer since age 3 and has trained in a variety of styles, including ballet, tap, jazz, flamenco and merengue. Yet there’s something about visualizing the work beforehand and then making it come to life that has great appeal for her.
Wanting to be a dancer or choreographer isn’t always the easiest sell in a culture in which artistic pursuits are often sniffed at as “not real jobs.”
Quiros had a Fresno City College counselor once tell her that dancing was just a “hobby,” she says.
But dancing is a part of every fiber of her being. She’s always conscious of how she moves. Even the flick of an arm can become part of her creations.
“It’s more satisfying knowing I’m doing what I love to do,” she says.
““Epistêmê,” opens 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16, John Wright Theatre, Fresno State. Runs through Feb. 24. Tickets are $17 general, $15 seniors, $10 students
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