Contemporary dance, by the book in Saturday show

The Fresno BeeJanuary 29, 2014 

"Literary Movements" features "The Giving Tree" with Jackie Laubly and Jasmin la Caris.


As a dancer and choreographer, Jasmin la Carís doesn't consider herself a writer, although she's kept a journal since childhood. But Carís has a deep and abiding passion for well-written words, not the least of which because they impose a sense of order on the world.

"I feel that having a clear message is important to creating good art," she says. "Reading literature helps me develop choreographic ideas and focuses my attention on the 'why' of a movement."

Carís and Company, the Fresno-based contemporary dance group founded by Carís in 2011, on Saturday presents "Literary Movements." We caught up with her via email to talk about the show.

Question: Give us an introduction to your company.


Answer: We first performed in our studio in the Tower District on ArtHop nights. Legally, the space could hold 20 people. Some months, we would dance in a 4x8 rectangle surrounded by 80 or 90 people. It was hip! In 2012, we sold out four performances of our first full-length show, called "Pas de Peinture."

Tell us about your own dance background.

I fell in love with dance at age 8 when I saw a flamenco dancer perform on PBS. I begged my parents to enroll me in classes. Later on, I studied flamenco with José Galván and am now apprenticing with Manuel Gutiérrez. I began to formally study contemporary dance and ballet at Fresno City College and also at Alonzo King LINES Ballet workshops in San Francisco.

How do you describe your choreographic style?

Flamenco gave me expression and spirit. Ballet taught me to appreciate lines. Modern freed me. It gave me shapes and awkwardness. People say that my style is a cross between Martha Graham, Alvin Ailey and Carmen Amaya. I try to focus on communicating my message and making sure my movement says what I want it to say.

Who are some of the writers referenced in "Literary Movements"?

Maya Angelou's poem "And Still I Rise" inspired me to create a solo about overcoming prejudice. Juana de Ibarbourou's poem "La Higuera" (The Fig Tree) is about encouragement so I developed a piece that takes place in a ballet class.

My Co-Artistic director Danny Moua's favorite book as a child was "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein. His choreography follows the relationship between a young girl and a tree.

Who are the choreographers?

All are dancers in the company. Danny Moua's style is expressive. He creates beautiful lines and he loves fantastical situations. Jackie Laubly's style is structured and specific, but also deep with emotion. Her piece in the show is a tearjerker. Whitney Hord is the newest member in the company. Her style is earthy and connected to the ground. Her sense of humor definitely shows up in her pieces.

The clothing store ANGL at Fashion Fair mall is sponsoring most of the costumes. How did you swing that?

I spoke with the manager. I explained the show concept and simply asked if they would sponsor costumes. A week later, I heard from corporate and they said yes! Some of our costumes are fashion forward. Other costumes are pedestrian, meaning everyday-people clothes. I got to design a tree costume, and one dress was hand-stitched by designer Ruby Reynald.

What is your take on Fresno's dance scene?

Fresno has incredible schools and teachers. We have great organizations and individuals like The Lively Arts Foundation and Cris Howell (Central Valley Dance Festival) that work hard to promote dance. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), professional dancers in Fresno have to create their own opportunities. I feel that people like Martha Kelly-Fiero (Altered Modalities) and Amy Querin (NOCO) are truly pioneers helping to create a scene.


"Literary Movements," Carís and Company, 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1, The Grand, 1401 N. Fulton St. (559) 473-8184, $20 advance, $25 at door.


The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6373, and @donaldbeearts on Twitter. Read his blog at

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