Circling the Janusphere

There's a whole lot going on inside Darion Smith, artistic director of Janusphere Dance Company. That's about to become evident later this week when the company celebrates its third year anniversary by performing highlights from its repertoire at the Manhattan Movement & Art Center Theater.

Hailed for their long, clean classical lines, JDC dancers are selected by Smith for their fluency in ballet, jazz and modern and the individuality they are able to express on stage as they lead audiences into dramatically choreographed dancescapes. They represent just about every continent on the globe and a wide breadth of experiences. To mix it up a little for this week's show, Smith is featuring two young dancers from the Ellison Ballet School's pre-professional program.

Inspired by Bebe Miller's 1990s The Hendrix Project, a supercharged dance celebration of rock guitarist legend Jim Hendrix, Smith began studying jazz and modern at age 17. His easy jumps and turns and natural good looks prompted immediate attention and encouragement; determination, drive and tireless commitment got him past the obstacles of a late start. His professional journey led him from a José Limón workshop to a four-year course of study at the Arts Conservatory Folkwang Essen in Germany, home to Pina Bausch. A tangential invitation to study classical dance at the Bolshoi in Moscow infused in him a deep and unexpected passion for ballet. He joined Dance Theater of Harlem when he returned to the U.S. in 2004 and formed Janusphere with associate artistic director Danielle Genest three years later.

Smith's choreographer heroes are Mats Ek, Twyla Tharp, Alonzo King, Nacho Duato and JiÅ™í Kylián. Appropriately, the name Janusphere suggest looking to the past for inspiration, and toward the future for opportunities to create and express unique artistic work. In the company's thirty-six months, Smith and Genest have choreographed and collected a repertory of 16 ballets. Smith likes to reminisce about the venue of their first performance, a dingy Brooklyn space with a giant hole in the ceiling of the theater and rats the size of Chihuahuas competing with the dancers on the warped stage floor. In contrast, their upcoming three shows will be at a sparkling, stylish venue, a fitting symbol of how far the company has come. The program includes Smith's Orion's View, a choreographic journey navigating Western astrology, and Sidewalk Slice, a funky, zany ride through an outrageous urbanscape, modeled on New York City. Performances will feature music by Gabriel Fauré, Reinhold Heil and Jonathon Pratt.

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