Angela Sweet always wanted to dance and always pictured herself as a dancer, maybe moving to New York or Seattle to pursue a career. But, as she puts it, “That got thrown for a loop when I met John.” John Sweet was moving to Chattanooga to open a bakery (now the Main Street landmark Niedlov’s), and Angela knew that the kind of dance community she was seeking did not currently exist in the city. Though ballet had been part of her training, she was a contemporary dancer, working a lot with improvisation. “So I had in the back of my mind, ‘What could my dance life look like if I were to live in Chattanooga?’”
She married John, moved here, began working 80 hours starting the business—and then the kids came along.
But in 2010, after eight years, she decided the time had come to launch a performance series in which she would perform—and would also showcase the diverse talent she’d connected with. “I’d done a little work with [modern dance troupe] Contrapasso,” she explains, “and I’d met [dancer and Barking Legs co-founder] Ann Law.” And she had a prototype in mind, something she had encountered in college.
“Wide Open Floor” allows 15 performers a short, pre-determined time slot to experiment with dance, poetry, music or storytelling. “I could make that happen here,” Angela says. The first Wide Open Floor happened at Main x 24 last year, in an empty building. “It was a good opportunity to be involved, and it worked out very well.”
Afterwards, “Ann began hounding me that we had to make it a regular thing. She talked me into it. She said, ‘I need it! I need a reason to keep making work!’”
Wide Open Floor began to be offered as a monthly event at Barking Legs, and has evolved into a never-the-same-thing-twice performance workout. “The visual arts community is booming, and the music scene is really thriving right now,” Angela notes. “The performing artists community needs to be friends and cross-pollinate.” And that, she adds, is actually happening, with performers such as Tim Hinck, avant-garde composer and professor of music at UTC’s Cadek Academy performing on the same bill as poets and dancers. “During one show [storyteller] Jim Pfitzer performed experimental improv with [dulcimer player] Butch Ross,” she notes.
Originally, the series featured 15-minute slots, which became 10-minutes and have now become eight minutes. Asked if she had ever given anyone “the hook”, she laughs and admits, “We’ve had to turn the lights out on a few people.” The idea, however, is to keep the evening moving briskly. “These are not finished pieces. They’re drafts that initiate the creative process,” she says. This month’s show on October 7 will be the last one starting at 9 p.m., as, through popular demand, starting time will be advanced to 8 p.m. beginning in November. Because Barking Legs will host a Pecha Kucha session beginning at 7 p.m. that same night, Wide Open Floor might well attract people who’d like to stay for both events.
“It’s still evolving,” Angela says. “We began very bare bones, no sponsors, house lights and a CD player. Now we’re stepping it up a bit and adding some lights and sound. But people will still come for the surprise and spontaneity of it.” She encourages anyone interested in performing to contact her through the event’s Facebook page or web site (listed below).
This month’s Wide Open Floor will feature:
Mia Hansford, poetry
Pattee Wilbanks & Megan Spooner, song
Marcus Ellsworth, poetry
Greg Laudeman, song
Ann Law, dance
Ray Zimmerman, poetry
Tim Hinck and Ashley Hamilton, “Aleatoric Music & The Art Of Chaos”
Wes Rehberg, audience participation videography
Elizabeth Longphre, dance
Laurie Vaughen, poetry
Morgan Koch, Poi
Davlin Stewart, spoken word
Jezebel and Delilah Deelite, burlesque
“Wide Open Floor”
Friday, October 7
Barking Legs Theater, 1307 Dodds Ave.
www.barkinglegs.org | wideopenfloor.weebly.com