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Altruism and the Art Form of Modern Dance — Modern Dancer Nicola Bennett

“We hope to expose more people to the art form of modern dance,” says Bennett.

During the 1900s, dancers began rebelling against the rigidity of classical ballet. They abandoned many things from the dance form, including the structured body postures and pointe shoes. Now they could dance barefoot in a more relaxed, freestyle way with an emphasis on weight and density (many modern dance movements have the body falling to the floor) which is very different from the light, up-in-the-air movements of ballet. It was a radical break that eventually solidified modern dance as its own respected dance style.

Nicola Bennett, Artistic Director of The Ascend Dance Collective, has announced that she will be bringing a series of modern dance performances to The Woodlands this fall and winter. Currently, professional modern dance performances are a rarity in Montgomery County. Bennett aims to fix that. She is currently workshopping several pieces in Houston before she brings her new body of work to our hometown.

The Woodlander caught up with Bennett and the Ascend dancers at The Como Social Club at Waterway Square to learn more about their upcoming dance descent in the woods.

Born in neighboring Spring to a Dutch father and Scottish mother, Bennett spent many years living overseas in both Holland and Saudi Arabia. She began her dance training at an early age studying ballet, jazz and lyrical and continued throughout high school. At Texas State University, she switched to modern dance and was taught by regional dance legends such as LeAnne Smith, Michelle Nance, Kaysie Seitz-Brown and Pat Stone. Bennett received several scholarships and awards including the coveted Orchesis Dance Scholarship and the Joan Hays Achievement in Choreography Award. For several years she was a member of the Austin-based Orchesis Dance Company and Merge Dance Company

“I was highly influenced by Erick Hawkins’ technique in college and so his body of work and aesthetic is part of my core dance vocabulary. Merce Cunningham’s choreography style is something I use a lot in my works. I feel intense gratitude toward modern dance icon Martha Graham and hold great admiration and respect for Rudolph Laban who is considered one of the pioneers of modern dance in Europe,” Bennett explains. “Musically, I am influenced by composers like Philip Glass and John Cage. Places like Marfa, Texas also inspire me, and I am generally drawn to the obscure, underground or overlooked.”

Two years ago, Bennett served as both a dancer and choreographer for the Ascend Dance Collective where she credits Donna K. Frogge for fostering growth in her and the company. Today, Bennett is the Artistic Director of Ascend whose goal it is to present diverse dance works that inspire, excite and promote modern dance in north Houston. The company is comprised of five dancers. They are Amy Blake-Spencer, Brenna Forsyth, Abby Linden, Leslie Stewart and Bennett.

“We aspire to bring the culture and vibe of the Houston dance scene with its myriad modern offerings to our home base here in The Woodlands,” explains Bennett. “We hope to expose more people to the art form of modern dance.”

Look for Bennett at The Woodlands’ In-Step Performing Arts Studio where she is the newly appointed Children’s Division Director. Her Ascend Dance Collective performs “Mind the Gap 11.0” at 7:30 pm on August 13th in Houston at MATCH Midtown Arts & Theater Center.

Visit Ascend Dance Collective’s Facebook page for more information.