Charlotte Adams, a professor of dance at the University of Iowa since 1998, is reigniting her passion for performing via “Dancing on the Ceiling.”
Lying on the floor was more appealing to her when she went back in the studio in May, she said with a laugh. She’s preparing for an evening of solo performances by six women ages 48 to 66 from across the country, who have accumulated more than 200 years of critically acclaimed experience as dancers, teachers and choreographers.
“Dancing on the Ceiling” debuts Friday and Saturday at the UI’s intimate 200-seat Space Place Theatre before traveling to Milwaukee and other points in the planning, from New York and Illinois to North Carolina.
The project grew by word-of-mouth, springing from an idea that Simone Linhares Ferro, dance department chairwoman at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, shared in 2014 with Sara Hook, dance professor at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.
“It’s an interesting concept,” Adams said, uniting women with “really rich careers” at home and abroad. Word quickly spread among colleagues, and Adams, 63, was thrilled to be invited along.
“We feel like voices of these women have a real place and an importance in the dance performance world these days that people often don’t get to see,” she said. “I think it’s important for audiences to see dancing bodies at all ages. Even dancing bodies that are not necessarily trained bodies can be great to see on stage.
“All the experience that comes into a performance that the older performer brings is just so valuable to see, and can be a really special event.”
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In addition to Ferro, Hook and Adams, the cast also includes UI dance professor Jennifer Kayle, former UI dance professor Beth Corning, founder of Corningworks dance company in Pittsburgh, and Debra Loewen, founder of Wild Space Dance Company in Milwaukee.
The show’s title came from of notion of breaking through the glass ceiling — not the Lionel Richie song that topped the record charts in 1986. And while the performers all lean toward modern dance, audiences will see a wide variety of movement styles, some with theatricality and humor.
They all like a physical challenge, Adams said.
“All these women have had that sense of youthfulness about them,” she said. “Dancing seems to do good things for people in general, and accepting the challenge of returning to the performance has also been a great thing as well. Some of them have kept performing all these years, but some of us have not.”
Adams found the prospect “terrifying” at first, but now is excited to be digging into to her performing roots.
“Returning to that has helped me see myself in a new light as a choreographer and also a mover, in ways that when I was young I don’t think I appreciated,” she said. “You can keep learning, and for people (who) embody their art form, there are new experiences that continue to bring a fresh outlook in performance and choreography.”
Adams is recreating “Imagining Ketchikan,” her signature 8-minute work from 2000 in which she dances with a cast-iron bathtub, symbolizing the push and pull of wanting to stay or leave the comforts of home. She’s been rehearsing it daily — and popping more ibuprofen.
“It feels like it’s in a good place, and my body feels like it’s in a pretty good place,” she said. “Maybe not my knees.”
IF YOU GO
What: “Dancing on the Ceiling” — performances by women of a certain age
When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, followed by cast talkback
Where: Space Place Theater, North Hall, University of Iowa, 20 W. Davenport St., Iowa City
Admission: Free, no tickets required
Warning: Brief nudity
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