Local Company Dances Out of Recession

The recession has taken a huge toll on non-profit arts groups across the country, as donations tanked and ticket sales slumped. But William Charles Crowley, artistic director of Next Step Dance Company, made tough choices last year that are allowing his company to leap back onto the stage as the economy recovers.“Last year, due to the economy, I had to cancel my annual performance,” he explains. “It turned out to be the smart thing to do to make sure the company remained solvent. A year later, we decided an encore performance of our most popular shows would be the best way to bring our audiences back.”

On Saturday, June 19, Next Step Dance returns to the Amaturo Theater stage at Fort Lauderdale’s Broward Center for the Performing Arts with Celebrating the Male Dancer, showcasing some of the company’s most popular dances from the 2008 program.


The 90-minute program will feature seven works conceived by Crowley and three guest choreographers, including two premieres:“Bring On the Men,” a cabaret- style opener; a theater piece based on the play Equus; and “Andamento,” named after a musical term that also is used to describe the flow of color in mosaic artwork.

“‘Andamento’ is a new work inspired by mosaic-design patterns,” Crowley says. “The more I researched the mosaic idiom, it took on a life of its own as I learned more about the history and culture. It grew into something bigger than just a design-oriented work based on geometric patterns.There are cultural references to Turkish dance and a wonderful score influenced by Middle Eastern traditional instruments backed up with a techno rhythm.There is definitely some- thing to stimulate audiences, a well-rounded evening of dance.”

Crowley admits that one of the biggest challenges for a choreographer is finding the right dancers to interpret and execute his work. For this latest production, he has turned to six seasoned veterans.

“I like to surround myself with dancers I can trust with a level of professionalism, integrity and shared vision of my choreography,” he says.“They may be leaping and jumping and diving to the floor, but they must also understand the character and inspiration behind the piece... That’s how you achieve a truer, more authentic interpretation.”

With more than 20 years as a performer, 10 years as a teacher and seven years serving as the artistic director of his own troupe, the Chicago native sees this program as a natural evolution of his art, especially as he will be joining the dancers on stage for the program. “It makes for an interesting rehearsal process. I have to wear two hats: dancer and director. I must be spatially aware of what I’m doing on the stage, but at the same time be able to step out and watch my dancers to make sure they’re performing at the highest level. It can be a bit schizophrenic at times,” he chuckles.

But the hard work will pay off for the choreographer, who acknowledges his medium is an “ephemeral art form” that affects audiences in very individual ways.
He concludes,“If I put my best foot for- ward—pardon the pun—present an evening of quality dance, and the audience walks away having witnessed something that was moving and thought-provoking... well, that will be enough for me.”

Celebrating the male Dancer
Next Step Dance, Inc . Saturday, June 19, 8 p .m . Amaturo Theater, Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Fort Lauderdale
Tickets cost $26.50 at BrowardCenter.org or 954-462-0222