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Zikr dance company to perform, offer workshops in Pagosa Springs

David Taylor’s dance company, Zikr, is coming to the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts Aug. 24 and 25 to present “Sacred Spaces,” a blend of ancient ritualistic dancing and contemporary ballet.

Zikr is a unique company based out of Denver that offers “performance experiences of spiritual atonement for both participants and audiences alike which are both theatrically engaging and educational and which also promote multi-cultural respect, diversity and tolerance.”

As the Zikr artistic director states, “The company’s singular artistic focus makes it totally unique among professional dance companies in the United States, and its relatively small size and flexibility and adaptability regarding performing spaces makes it an ideal fit for not only major presenters, but also for smaller or unusual venues.”

Smaller venues like the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts.

David Taylor is the founder and former artistic director of the David Taylor Dance Company. He began dancing relatively late in his life at the age of 20. Nonetheless, he danced professionally for 12 years.  

David explains, “I was first a musician and composer, but ballet gradually took over my time and interest and when I got my first opportunity to choreograph, it opened up a whole new world for me that became my most fulfilling channel for creativity.”

He founded the DTDC (now the Dawson Wallace Dance Project [DWDP]) in 1979 and directed it up until 2006 when he retired. He also teaches dance history at Colorado State University and ballet technique at Denver Ballet Theatre.  He founded the Zikr Dance Theatre in 2009; the company has since performed in Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, Grand Junction, Carbondale, Parker, St. Paul, Minn., and Long Beach, Calif.

David says, “After retiring from DTDT in 2006, I went back to teaching classical ballet and dance history, which I always enjoyed but never really had the time for in terms of total dedication when I was directing the company. However, after a few years I really started to miss the performing component and especially the creativity associated with choreography. I knew, however, that I didn’t want to go back and do the full-time company thing again, nor create a company that was based on a lot of hype. I realized that the work that meant the most to me was that which was based on spiritual and metaphysical ideas. Zikr has become the perfect outlet for this new direction.”

The company has performed in Carbondale and has performances planned in Crested Butte, giving residents of these rural towns like Pagosa Springs a chance to see some of Colorado’s finest trained ballet dancers. 

 “When I directed DTDT, we toured frequently to smaller, outlying communities in Colorado,” says Taylor. “We had a program for years entitled the Rural Colorado Community Tour, and it was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, Xcel Energy and the Gay and Lesbian Fund for Colorado. I always enjoyed taking professional dancers to smaller towns in Colorado because the audiences were always so appreciative. In the same context, I also have always enjoyed bringing work to audiences that for the most part would not have the opportunity to see such things, and along with it, expose new audiences to new ideas. In addition, the tours helped provide extra work for the dancers which helped them maintain their careers as dancers.”

The Pagosa program will feature Taylor’s award-winning ballets “Anasazi Dream,” “Rainforest” and “Bali Agung.” The program will also feature “Men Ceremony,” a Gurdjieff movement recently taught to the company at the PACE center in Parker by Amiyo Devienne, an internationally-known Gurdjieff movement teacher.

The Gurdjieff movements were created by the Armenian mystical artist George Gurdjieff (1870-1949) as part of his teaching system. The movements have been described as, “a repertoire of ancient and sacred dances and esoteric movements gathered from closed communities, temples and monasteries in the Near and Middle East and Asia.” There are over 250 movements meant to develop what Gurdjieff called “presence in being” in his students. According to Gurdjieff, the point of the movements is to help the “harmonious development of man,” by “combining mind and feeling with the movements of the body and manifesting them together.”

Taylor became involved in Gurdjieff work while in college; he joined a Gurdjeiff group in 1970 in London and then again in the early ’80s in Denver.

“I have always been attracted to Gurdjieff’s ideas, but most especially the sacred dance movements,” says Taylor. “I began teaching a few of them in the eighties and nineties and then, when I formed Zikr, it seemed only natural to include some of them in our repertoire.”   

“Dance to me is the perfect symbol for the activity of God. It is also the art form which employs the most metaphor, which we continue to desperately need more of in our society today. I have been extremely blessed by having the opportunity to be touched by the spirit of the dance in this lifetime and continue to be so. It remains for me true manna and continues to embody and express true mystery. Martha Graham said it very well: ‘There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening — that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time. This is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have only to keep open and be aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps on marching and makes us more alive than the others.’”

Tickets for the Zikr Dance Ensemble are $20 in advance or $25 at the door and can be purchased by calling 731-7469 or by visiting www.pagosacenter.org.  Both performances are at 7 p.m. on Aug. 24 and 25.  Contact Laura Moore at laura@pagosacenter.org for information on the dance workshops that the company members will offer while they are in town.

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