Final HopeWerks Performance Strikes Whimsical Note

With the closing of Hope Stone's Montrose studio, the long-running residency series also says goodbye.

By Adam Castañeda May 23, 2014

Woolgathering: Dancer Laura Gutierrez

Image: Ashley Horn

May 23 & 24 at 8
$5 at door (cash only)
Hope Stone Studio
1210 W. Clay, Suite 26 

The life of a dancer is inherently extroverted. Dancers must develop their craft in class— in front of their instructors and peers and that ever-present studio mirror—out in the open for the enjoyment and judgment of others. And the creation of a new dance is intrinsically linked to collaboration and group interaction. In short, dance requires the ability to constantly negotiate interpersonal relationships.

At first glance, then, dance might not seem like the ideal medium for an introvert. But it’s the creative expression of choice for Houston dancer and choreographer Ashley Horn. “I have always been a very strong introvert who became a dancer, an art form in which you are constantly being asked to share and reveal,” Horn says. “It is something always at the forefront of my mind—how to build relationships in general and with other dancers and audience members when the majority of my thoughts are so internal.”

Woolgathering: Dancer Shanon Adams

Image: Ashley Horn

How to juggle the personal satisfaction of an internal dreamscape with the demands of social existence is the subject of Horn’s evening-length work, Woolgathering on May 23 and 24 at Hope Stone Studio. With the closing of the much-loved Montrose dance studio comes the end of the associated HopeWerks residency program.

For many, Suite 26 at 1210 West Clay was a space filled with love, creativity, and a sense of never-ending childhood glee. The closing of the studio and its residency program is of special significance for Horn, who performed in the first HopeWerks performance in 2007, when Cassandra Shaffer was the inaugural artist-in-resdience. “I think anyone that has ever gone to Hope Stone knows that it is a magical place,” she says. “I've experienced some beautiful things there, including the opportunity to perform in the first HopeWerks performance and to close out the current run of the residency with my own work.  Everything has a life, a beginning and an end, and I feel lucky and honored to have been a part of HopeWerks in this way.”

Woolgathering: Dancer Laura Gutierrez

Image: Ashley Horn

Woolgathering takes its title from an archaic word for daydreaming—in Renaissance England, woolgatherers were hired hands who combed through bushes where sheep had passed through and collected the entangled wool; the tedious profession provided the perfect setting for a wandering mind. For the dance, Horn transformed the intimate studio into a blanket fort in which audience members witness a series of surreal vignettes, in which gypsies, goddesses, and statues interact in conventional and unconventional ways.

“At first, the process consisted of learning pieces of a bigger phrase,” says dancer Shanon Adams. Horn often has her dancers learn a set sequence of moves, then asks them to make it their own by adding or subtracting elements. “Once all the pieces were solidified, we were paired off randomly by selecting pieces of paper with names, and had to make variations to the phrase together,” Adams says.

In addition to Horn and Adams, the cast of Woolgatheringincludes Frame Dance Productions Artistic Director Lydia Hance, Rebekah Chappell, Laura Gutierrez, Tina Shariffskul, and Leo Muñoz—a familiar face at Suchu Dance who is making his last Houston appearance before moving to Austin. The end result is a dream sequence that Horn hopes will get the audience to reflect on their own imaginative landscapes.

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