August 2015 - Let Us Entertains You - Edye Allen of Dance Exposé Productions
I heard the old saying, “Those who can’t do, teach.” Well, for a choreographer, the saying couldn’t be further from the truth. Without the choreographer, the dancer cannot exist because they provide the creative force behind every step a dancer takes. For 40 years, Edye Allen has enjoyed the love of dance and the passion it can bring. Currently producing her latest concert, White Gold, Allen, Executive Director of Dance Exposé Productions, took a moment to look back on her history of dance and where it has led her.
Her love of dance developed at a young age. “I was put in dance classes when I was five and never stopped since. Plus it didn’t come easy to me and I believe that’s what kept me going instead of losing interest.” Allen, an Albuquerque native, saw her career flourish in Los Angeles, California, but it was a struggle to make it happen. “I worked two jobs just to survive the high cost of L.A. I took dance class five days a week. I was in a dance company and I taught dance.” The experience led to Allen working with some amazing talent, including Janet Jackson, Alabama, and Steve Martin. When it came to her most memorable project, the memories came flooding back. “As much as I enjoyed doing the Alabama video, I have to say Pennies from Heaven [because it] was so grandiose and my first professional gig.”
When the time came to expand the Allen clan, the decision was clear. “I had just gotten married to Tom and did not want to start a family in L.A., and felt like being close to family again.” During this time, the love of dance was not lost. Seeing what New Mexico was missing, Allen made the leap to create her own dance company. “At that time, no studios or anyone had just a company that performed, so I put one together,” shared Allen. “It gave me an opportunity to train at a more intense level than just classes. We could rehearse more often than usual. I was also bursting with creative dance ideas.” Those creative dance ideas has led Dance Exposé Productions to become a dance company known for their amazing concerts - that’s right dance concerts - with energizing and breathtaking dance numbers and intense lifts. Creating a piece for a show may be a challenge, but Allen has her process. “A piece of music - I keep visualizing movement to,” expressed Allen. “I see if I can keep an interest, then play with different parts of the music to see if I want to keep going, if I have ideas that will carry me through, looking for variety in music genres as well.”
Celebrating their 23rd year, the question had to be asked - what do you feel is the secret to your staying power. Allen was not at a loss for words. “Perseverance - plus a dose of crazy. Let’s just say I completely related to the movie, Birdman.” The reference of Birdman is one that Allen deals with on a regular basis - taking a risky, creative gamble every time she puts her work on stage. But when it comes to the players who show that work, she knows exactly what she looks for. “Sounds corny, but, passion is very attractive,” says Allen. “I have taught for so many years that it needs to be more than just movement to keep me inspired.” However, as an Executive Director of your own company, it is even harder to find when looking for that perfect student. “Finding students that want to put in the hard work and commitment instead of just show-time instant gratification,” says Allen. “I was a die-hard, true-blue, never give up type of dancer. It is rare to find that type of dedication. Another challenge is the money situation. Finding the funds to keep this company going is not an easy task.” As for that one piece of advice for those looking to make it in the dance arena, “Hard work must accompany the passion and will. It’s that simple.”
As Allen pulls from life how she expects her dancers to strive, when it comes to creating a dance, she looks within and finds life experience is a big draw when creating a piece. One experience in particular led to a well-received dance number. “When I was caring for, and staying with my mom before she passed, I had to choreograph under very emotionally stressful conditions,” shared Allen. “But it was also one of my most creative times. Although it wasn’t the type of piece reflecting my sadness. Instead, I choreographed my Miami Vice medley at that time. When we lived in L.A., she and I both watched that program regularly.”
Dance Exposé has truly become a family affair. Allen works side-by-side with her daughter, Erin, and former husband, Tom. She shared how the experience has been. “[Tom] was right with me in starting Exposé. We are truly really good friends. The most special part is he and our daughter [Erin] dancing together. A lot in this show especially. It is rare, and special and mainly IT WORKS. And this year’s show, White Gold, will not disappoint. When it comes to variety, the show has it in spades. “Variety in song and dance and visuals,” states Allen. “Also some former alumni will be joining us this year, which adds that always changing “flavor” I always reference to in my Director’s Notes in the show program. We will be at a new venue after 18 years at Sandia Prep. This year we will be at the African American Performing Arts Center, which is exciting!” A lot of preparation goes into creating a show this size, but when it comes down to it, choreography is still king when it comes to time-management of the show. “Choreography is very, very, very time consuming, not to mention being under pressure to create and pushing everyone in every area to stay on schedule.”
Even with all the pressure, the experience of creating these amazing dance performances is not lost on Allen. “It’s exciting - simply watching the final product with both the expected outcome as well as the unexpected [serendipity]. I feel like such a proud parent when watching it all come to light - seeing the pure joy that the dancers have on their faces during and after the performances.”
Looking back at her 40 years in the dance industry, Allen was quite clear on what she wanted her legacy to be. “My longevity for one thing. As I referred to before, I relate to the movie Birdman because he just couldn’t give up and neither can I - sometimes to a fault. Giving the tools to so many dancers to gain confidence in whatever direction everyone takes, they can take a piece of the Dance Exposé experience with them. Hopefully, it is a positive message that I could raise my daughter to work hard and to give her the opportunity to dance and sing with her dad. And lastly to make MEMORIES of epic proportions!”
Dance Exposé Productions presents White Gold on August 14th-16th at the African American Performing Arts Center at 310 San Pedro NE on the Expo New Mexico State Fairgrounds. Tickets can be purchase atwww.danceexpose.org or by calling (505) 610-6064.