Rock solid

Black Rock Dance Company

From left, Lindsy Roberts, Jennifer Boyle and Ramona Cachinero rehearse for the Black Rock Dance Company’s debut performance.

From left, Lindsy Roberts, Jennifer Boyle and Ramona Cachinero rehearse for the Black Rock Dance Company’s debut performance.

Photo By David Robert

In college, I worked at the campus theater, which often hosted dance performances by the school’s avant-garde dance company. For one number, I was supposed to throw vegetables at the dancers on cue. “If this is modern dance,” I told myself, “then I’ll pass.”

Jennifer Boyle, artistic director of In Motion Studio of Dance, faces this misconception all the time. Through her new Black Rock Dance Company, which makes its debut performance during Artown’s Dancing in the Park series this month, Boyle hopes to open people’s eyes to the versatility, strength and beauty of modern dance.

“People often think modern dance is weird. Like going to see Salvador Dali,” says the Reno native. “If people don’t ‘get it,’ they feel threatened. I never want someone to think that about modern dance because there are so many different styles.”

Boyle, 31, started dancing at age 13. She was introduced early to modern dance and to the work of Martha Graham, but she soon realized that Reno didn’t offer her many options. “At that time … it was difficult to find modern dance without going to a big city,” she says.

So she left for the Boston area, earning her associate’s degree from Dean College then studying briefly at the highly competitive Alvin Ailey Dance Academy. From there, Boyle joined the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where she studied under the foremost jazz and modern dancers in the country, including Ronen Koresh of the Koresh Dance Company. She earned her B.F.A. in 1997, and after teaching at studios around Philadelphia, Boyle returned to Reno, determined to introduce her hometown to a fusion of modern dance styles and techniques.

She opened In Motion Studio of Dance in 2003, which offers a variety of dance instruction. She also teaches Ashtanga yoga because “you have to be strong to do this stuff.”

Boyle, whose forearms feature well-defined muscles, recently performed with Diavolo Dance Theater, which demanded exceptional strength and stamina. Strength is part of what Black Rock Dance Company is all about.

“I wanted something strong in the name, because we’re really strong, physical dancers. And what’s stronger than a rock? Plus, Black Rock really symbolizes Nevada,” Boyle explains.

All seven dancers—Kari Albert, Claudia Demko, Ginese Weyant, Krysti Gabriel, Lindsy Roberts, Ramona Cachinero and Boyle herself—bring their own signature styles to this performance. Pieces include a tribute to Johnny Cash, an Appalachian waltz inspired by the movie Cold Mountain and even a Celtic piece. Demko and Albert will dance a quirky duet titled “Dead Already,” featuring the dancers in business attire portraying the lifelessness of the daily grind. Guest guitarist Eric Lissy, described by Boyle as “part Jack Johnson, part G Love and Special Sauce,” will perform throughout the show. Special guest Melissa Rector of the Koresh Dance Company will perform a solo piece. Rector, one of Boyle’s own mentors, will teach two modern jazz master classes at In Motion on July 22.