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Breaking Ground 2014 to Push Contemporary Dance Boundaries in Tempe

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Now in its seventh year, the annual Breaking Ground Contemporary Dance and Film Festival seems poised to be better than ever. The two-night event will bring 17 established and emerging artists from all over the country and the world to Tempe Center for the Arts for an event that will include dance, dance films, site-specific works, and more.

See also: 9 Must-See Dance Events During the Valley's 2013-14 Season

This year, a panel of adjudicators selected works from nearly 100 applicants. "Every year, it's a more and more competitive process," says organizer Carley Conder of CONDER/dance. "The overriding criteria for Breaking Ground was 'Is this innovative? Is this taking a risk? Is this pushing the boundaries of how dance is defined right now?'"

Both nights of the festival will include reConception, a site-specific event that will take place throughout various spaces at Tempe Center for the Arts.

"We've always had performances throughout the property, but we really wanted to make a push to have a more unified concept," Conder says.

So this year, reConception will feature more local artists -- including Candy Jimenez, Jordan Daniels, and Nicole Olson -- who will "re-imagine" a portion of the venue. One performer will be found in the parking lot, while another portion of the work will be placed in a sitting area inside the center's lobby.

"I really gave the artists that are involved a lot of freedom . . . to make a familiar space more magical," Conder says.

And because the works are presented in public spaces, the public is welcome to enjoy the performance for free from 7:30 to 8 p.m. on both nights of the festival. For those who will be catching the whole show, expect a tough choice when it comes to selecting a single night to attend.

On Friday night, you'll have the chance to see the première of subSTRATA, from choreographer Chad Michael Hall and his new company MULTIPLEX DANCE. The piece will be the first original work performed by the Los Angeles-based dance company, which Hall formed in 2013.

subSTRATA will explore the Jungian idea of the shadow or "shadow aspect", as well as Plato's allegory of the cave.

"We all have a shadow, and the shadow aspect tends to be the unconscious aspect, the part of our self that we don't look at," Hall says.

For this piece, he says, he challenged his dancers to "return to more primitive instincts" and create a "shadow dancer alter ego." In addition to his signature highly athletic and acrobatic movement style, we can look forward to original video projections that will be incorporated into the work.

Saturday night's lineup includes Sheena Annalise's Seasons of White, "a very dynamic contemporary ballet piece that explores the ever-shifting perceptions of light throughout the year."

The New York-based choreographer and artistic director of Arch Contemporary Ballet, says she got the idea for the piece when she first moved from California to the East Coast. The new surroundings opened her eyes to new associations with the color white, beyond the ideas of grace, innocence, and freshness.

The piece includes "eye-catching lifts" and "linear partnering," through which the four performers travel through the "journey of light" during the 10-minute work.

On the upside, for those who can only make it to one of the festival's evening shows, attendees on both Friday and Saturday will get to see Conder's newest work, subtidal. According to Conder, the piece was inspired by the work of sculptor Pete Diese.

"It really started with this sculpture; it's called Urchin Spine," Conder says. "To me they look like creatures that could live under the sea."

You'll be able to see the sculpture for yourself, as it will serve as a set piece in Conder's work. The movement "is really based on idea that piece could take place under the sea," she says. And the trio of dancers will sport vintage 1960s bathing suits.

As always, the festival also will include a day of masters classes taught by Breaking Ground artists including Hall, Nadar Rosano (who's coming from Tel Aviv for the event), and Stephanie Liapis. Classes cost $10 each, and attendees are welcome to observe as well. You can view the schedule on the CONDER/dance website. Registration is not required.

Tickets to Breaking Ground 2014 cost $20 in advance or $25 at the door and can be purchased online. The festival will take place from 7:30 to about 10 p.m. on both Friday, January 24, and Saturday, January 25, at Tempe Center for the Arts. The performances will begin on the main stage at 8 pm. following reConception.

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