Katherine Gant: Creating a ‘Refuge’ for dancers

12 years ago, Katherine Gant had an idea, a dance company created for dancers on the go, who had other commitments and still wanted to dance outside typical weekday rehearsals. Katherine’s theory: The rigid schedules demanded by work, college, and family life shouldn’t stop dancers from performing! So, she created Refuge Dance Company.  In an interview with Dance Canvas, Gant opens up about how she started the company and what’s on the horizon.

Katherine Gant

What is the Refuge Dance Company?

Refuge Dance Company is a professional dance company founded on the principle that schedule rigidity shouldn’t prevent dancers from doing what they love. Most companies operate during the day or require multiple day commitments, isolating anyone with a traditional 9-5 job or college students with heavy class loads. Refuge was created to fill to the gap and provide a place for them to continue dancing with only a weekend commitment needed. We’ve had many college students, working professionals, school teachers, and parents all continue to dance with a professional company and not have to hang up their dancing shoes.

Our mission is to bring dancers in, build them up, and send them out. We cultivate a family environment and create works that present the artist in an authentic manner, communicating messages that our audience can identify with.

What inspired you to create the Contemporary 3 Dance Project?

As a growing choreographer in Atlanta, I found there are not many opportunities to present your work. I enjoyed being a part of Dance Canvas, presenting at the very first Dance Canvas performance. It was a great opportunity for us. However, the platform primarily focuses on emerging choreographers. The 3 Contemporary Dance Project was created to again, fill a gap we saw in the dance community to serve choreographers by providing them (an additional) place to present work. We allow up to 30 minutes of work to be presented, we help produce them, provide promotional materials and more importantly, we share the bulk of work and expense of producing a show with them. Not every choreographer has enough work to support their own show, so this way, we help them get closer to that mark with the ability to show a longer length work to begin building toward that ability.

What is your process like to select/work with choreographers?

We asked for each choreographer to apply and describe the work they would like to present in detail, provide videos of the proposed work, or work they have done in the past. I loved going through the applications and hearing about these choreographers’ proposed work. We have an amazing choreographic voice here in Atlanta, and I am excited to be able to showcase it at 3 Contemporary Dance Project. We had more applications than we could take this year, which is great news because our goal is to continue to do this each year!

How can dancers or choreographers get involved in future shows if they are interested?

First, come to any of the 3 nights, or even better, come all 3 since it’s a different show each night! See what it’s like, feel the energy these choreographers have, and enjoy their hard work. Apply next year as a choreographer, think outside the box, think of a longer work, think a 3, 4, or 5 section work, create a story, research a theme, take the audience on a journey about something important to you and use the best medium we know for communicating, DANCE!

And for dancers, stay in class and find those choreographers; encourage them to keep going and dance in their pieces!!! Choreographers can’t exist without dancers!

What are some of your favorite parts of this year’s show?

The props – bags, Coke cans, and paper bags, meeting new choreographers, creating community and socks! Once you see the show, you’ll understand!

What is it like to run your own company/spearhead a show like this with so many moving parts?

Humbling. I am humbled and honored to be able to produce a show like this, to be able to give people a chance to dance and share their art with others. Being a producer and director is hard work, long hours with unrealistic time frames and to-do lists but being able to provide a place for 36 dancers to perform, amazing!!

(All photos above courtesy of Katherine Gant, Refuge Dance Company)

**Refuge Dance Company performed in Dance Canvas' Inaugural Performance Series in 2008, and Katherine Gant's work was presented in Dance Canvas' 2010 Performance Series.
(Photos above by Richard Calmes; Courtesy of Dance Canvas, Inc.)

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