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[nueBOX] Expands with CONDER/dance Residency at Phoenix Center for the Arts

It looks like [nueBOX], the nonprofit arts organization established in 2014 by Matther Mosher and Julie Akerly, is already starting to think outside its own box. Conceived as a nonprofit residency program for emerging performance and installation artists, [nueBOX] recently announced its newest artists in residence: a pairing of CONDER/dance with filmmaker Perry Allen.

But CONDER/dance, founded in 2003 by artistic director Carley Conder, is hardly an emerging dance company. Conder’s work has been performed at Herberger Theater Center, Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Mesa Arts Center, and more. The latest iteration of Conder’s annual Breaking Ground dance and film festival took place in March of 2015 at Tempe Center for the Arts.

So how does choosing CONDER/dance from the latest crop of residency applicants fit the [nueBOX] model? We connected with Akerly by phone last Friday, while she was attending the first day of an international symposium on electronic art in Vancouver, to get her take. Akerly admits there’s been some controversy surrounding the decision, but pushed back on the idea that CONDER/dance doesn’t fit the emerging artist model.

Most metro Phoenix dance companies are still emerging, according to Akerly, when compared with staples of the metro Phoenix dance scene like Ballet Arizona. And although CONDER/dance has been around for many years, it has struggled like other companies to secure affordable space for developing and rehearsing work. When we talked with Conder last week, she was dealing with the possibility of having to pay more for her current rehearsal space. “We still consider them an emerging artist,” says Akerly. “They’re still struggling to pay for dance space.”

[nueBOX] residents use room 302 on the third floor of Phoenix Center for the Arts, in a room where the nonprofit made improvements that include painting and putting in new floors. They present work-in-progress showings, which are open to the public, at Phoenix Center for the Arts as well.

There’s more to the [nueBOX] mission than helping emerging companies, according Mosher, who moved from Phoenix to Florida in mid-August to accept a teaching position. However, he still serves on the [nueBOX] board of directors. Mosher notes that [nueBOX] also exists to foster collaboration and the creation of interdisciplinary works — which is what makes the CONDER/dance and Perry Allen partnership such a good fit. “We think it will help both artists push their own personal boundaries and open them up to new possibilities within their own work,” Mosher says.

Six performing artists applied during the last round of residency applications, says Akerly, who notes that applications were reviewed by several out-of-state panelists before she and board member Angel Crissman made the final choice. A smaller number of installation artists applied.

“When we evaluate applicants, we judge them on several criteria that are important to us,” says Mosher. One is “the clarity of the process to be used in developing the new work.” So it’s important, he adds, that applicants have the ability to clearly communicate that process. “Applicants get extra points for collaboration,” he explains. “Perry Allen was intriguing to us because he’s less established.”

Conder says she decided to apply after seeing Jordan Daniels’ positive experience with his [nueBOX] residency earlier this year. Daniels has his own company, but is also a member of CONDER/dance.

During their fourth-month residency launching in September, Conder and Allen will be working on a new multimedia dance work Conder hopes to feature at the 2016 Breaking Ground festival. Both conceptually and visually, it’s infused with shards meant to reflect the fragmentary nature of life.

In some ways their residency represents an extension of work previously undertaken together, according to Allen, who notes that they’ve spent about a year creating and filming movement around metro Phoenix. “What I love about working with Carley is that she has a very clear vision both theoretically and aesthetically,” Allen says. “It drives our practice, but there’s flexibility, too.”

Mosher hopes these residency experiences help artists become more in tune with the local community, and more inclined to stay in metro Phoenix. Reducing the flight of recent art graduates to other cities was one key reason he and Akerly started [nueBOX], he adds. “There aren’t a lot of spaces for emerging, and mid-level artists here.”

Those eager to see how the CONDER/dance residency unfolds can attend a September 26 workshop (tickets are $10) or attend free workshop-in-progress showings taking place November 3 and December 1. For an earlier glimpse into [nueBOX] workings, hit their Experimental Art Night featuring diverse artists from several different fields — which takes place September 12.

[nueBOX] is accepting applications for its next residency period through September 6. Both performance and installation artists can apply. Find more information on the [nueBOX] website.

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Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble