By Selina Falcon
The Fresno Dance Collective (NOCO) premieres “Nothing is Beautiful; Everything is Fine” at the 2018 Rogue Festival this weekend at Dianna’s Studio of Dance. This is the first show since the departure of NOCO founder Amy Querin – who just a few months ago moved to Wisconsin – and the pressure is on.
Alexandra Tiscareno, NOCO’s new resident choreographer and the creator and director of the new show, is well aware of the shoes she has to fill.
“When you hear the word NOCO in the Fresno dance scene, you immediately think of Amy,” Tiscareno said. “You think of her creative genius, her drive, and her passion … It is a lot of pressure.”
Tiscareno, 24, is from Fresno and never had any formal dance training growing up. She said it wasn’t until the spring of 2013 that she started taking dance classes at Fresno City College and Clovis Community College.
Editor’s note: Author Selina Falcon is a senior print journalism major at Fresno State. To celebrate the Rogue Festival, I’m excited on The Munro Review to include work from students in my advanced editing class at the university.
“That’s when I met Amy, and boy, did she not like me at first,” she said. “I think about it now and laugh, but back then, it was absolutely terrifying.”
Tiscareno was introduced to NOCO that spring when she took a class from Querin. She officially became involved with the company in 2015 when Querin needed help with NOCO’s aerial program.
“I wanted to be [in] NOCO so bad, I was at everything—their rehearsals, techs and shows,” she said. “I look back on it now and go, ‘Alex, girl, you needed to calm down.’ It was comical and kind of sad … It wasn’t until Rogue season of 2017 that I became an official contracted dancer and, well, the rest is history.”
Tiscareno said this Rogue performance is also important and different for NOCO because the aerial performance portion of NOCO has split from the dance portion.
“It’s a huge transition,” she said. “I feel like the dance portion sort of hid quietly in the shadows, while the aerial company took off and made a name for themselves. Now that there is no aerial company, it’s just us showing the Fresno dance scene that NOCO is still here and ready for anything.”
“Nothing is Beautiful; Everything is Fine” is an hour-long show that Tiscareno said explores three topics — human connection, conformity and vulnerability — and how they pertain to the dancers’ lives as women.
The idea for her show was first born about a year ago, after one of her works got harsh critiques at the American College Dance Festival.
“It absolutely devastated me to the point where I considered not choreographing anymore,” she said.
Through those struggles, she said, she knew she had to reinvent herself somehow. That reinvention came in the form of “Nothing is Beautiful; Everything is Fine.”
“The idea didn’t become an actual living entity until August of 2017,” she said. “That’s when it went from a distant thought in my head to something I was staring at, face to face.”
Rehearsals for “Nothing is Beautiful; Everything is Fine” began in late December and performers have met every Sunday evening for four hours.
“I just want to do the best I can to represent NOCO and myself in a positive light and, honestly, I’ve lucked out,” Tiscareno said. “All of the performers are such incredibly strong women and they do not stray away from a challenge.”
Kelsie Barry, 24, has been with NOCO since 2013 after training under the instruction of Querin at Clovis Community. She has performed in two Rogue Festivals prior to this year’s.
Barry got involved with the show after taking a year and half leave from NOCO for health reasons. When she returned, Tiscareno had completed the show’s choreography in time for September’s “Seattle to Fresno: Best of Fringe.”
“I sat down with Alex and explored our options of me reentering, at least for the season,” Barry explained. “I decided to fully move forward and commit to the Rogue Festival 2018.”
Barry said her favorite part about doing this show has been getting to share time and space with “some of the most talented female dancers in the Fresno area.”
“We exchanged stories along the way, both uplifting and unfortunate,” she said. “This experience made us closer as artists, friends and sisters.”
The most challenging part? The vulnerability she has had to showcase.
“The mediums we use in the show are movement and words. We project times of oppression inflicted by ourselves and others, traumatic past experiences, addiction and fear,” she said. “I created a small excerpt for part of the show and I speak about things that I will be coming forward about for the first time to several people. The exposure can feel heavy but relieving.”
For Shelby Plaugher, 20, the work itself has been one of her favorite parts of being involved with the show.
“The mood of Alex’s choreography fits a niche in my soul as a performer I’ve never experienced elsewhere,” she said. “It’s physically demanding, but easy. I find pieces of myself in Alex’s work and inner peace that I do not find in other areas of my life, let alone in performing arts.”
Plaugher said this is her first time performing at the Rogue, but she has seen NOCO’s past Rogue shows. She said this show is different from those because it is “unafraid to demonstrate primal emotion” and bring out strong emotional reactions from the audience.
“This show is vigorously cerebral and emotional, and I think people will feel a little tired, in the best way,” she said. “Sometimes it’s exhausting to feel, but this show will empty you and [then] leave you filled.”
Tiscareno said she is most excited about this year’s Rogue Festival because it is a monumental time for NOCO. Everything is new.
“New venue, new choreographer, new dancers and a whole new vibe. As Amy would call it, ‘The Resurgence.’ That is what it is,” Tescareno said. “It feels like the entity of NOCO has come back with a sort of fire that hasn’t been experienced in a while. The newness of it all makes me excited.”
“Nothing is Beautiful; Everything is Fine,” Fresno Dance Collective, Dianna’s Studio of Dance, 825 N. Fulton St., Fresno. Remaining performances are 5 p.m. Saturday, March 3; and 8 p.m. Sunday, March 4. Tickets are $12, cash or credit, available at the door starting 30 minutes before the performance, or in advance online at roguefestival.ticketleap.com. A one-time $3 Rogue Festival wristband is required.
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