Dancers spend their entire careers learning how to inhabit all the space that's available to them.
So what's the appeal of "Ten Tiny Dances," in which dancers and choreographers work to stage dances all within the confines of a 4-by-4 foot space 18 inches off the ground?
"It's the challenge. It's totally the challenge," said Mishele Mennett, the mid-valley choreographer and dance teacher who again is spearheading the Corvallis edition of "Ten Tiny Dances," which plays Friday night and Sunday afternoon at the Majestic Theatre. (See the information box for additional information about performance times and tickets.)
Working with the smaller space "intensifies your focus so much," she said. "You can only do certain things."
Last year's performance of "Ten Tiny Dances" (the idea originated with Portland dancer Mike Barber) sold out, so Mennett added the Sunday matinee.
She also picked a new theme for this year: All the dances this year relate in some way to water, and proceeds from the show are earmarked to help the Marys River Watershed Council. "I've done with a lot of volunteering with them" since choosing the theme, Mennett said. "It's amazing how much trash is on our riverfronts."
Last year, Mennett directed the show, but she didn't choreograph any of the pieces; instead, she invited choreographers to submit proposals to her for the show.
For this year's show, Mennett again invited choreographers to submit proposals, but this year she's choreographing two of the pieces, including the finale, a ingenious tribute to the iconic Jennifer Beals dance sequence in the movie "Flashdance," the one which ends with water from a bucket pouring over Beals.
So, that's the connection with water. But there's more to the story: This piece features Carolyn Hudson Harris, a professional bodybuilder from Corvallis, who will be making her dance debut with the performance.
Mennett starts the story: She works at the Timberhill Athletic Club, and one day, she spied Harris at the club. "When somebody walks with grace, confidence and power, it catches my eye," Mennett said. "I had no idea at that point if she could dance or not. I figured she knew how to command a stage."
But Mennett thought that Harris likely would turn down her proposal to join the cast of "Ten Tiny Dances."
As it turned out, Harris is taking a hiatus from bodybuilding competitions, and was intrigued by Mennett's proposition: "I truly believe that life begins at the end of your comfort zone," she said during a rehearsal at the Majestic this week.
In the end, Harris said, the decision of whether to buy into Mennett's proposal to perform a tiny dance came down to a question she had to ask herself: "It was a 'why not, Carolyn, why not? And you don't have a why-not answer, Carolyn.'"
She and Mennett have worked on the piece for three months or so. During a rehearsal this week, Mennett made some small adjustments and called out suggestions, but was clearly pleased with the progress made by her new pupil.
"She's a seasoned, professional performer," Mennett said. "If she forgets a dance step, she'll just fill it in with her own sass."
And for Harris, who's competed in bodybuilding competitions for six years, the discipline of dancing has been a revelation.
"I plan to do more dancing," she said. "My body is very happy about this."
And Mennett, for her part, has confidence in her new pupil: "She's coming out with a big splash."