An IT manager for a pharmaceuticals company in Cambridge by day, David Orr is taking a different set of talents to the stage this Friday night. His contemporary dance showcase “In My Heart,” which premieres at Boston Center for the Arts on Friday and will run through Nov. 9, will explore themes of abandonment, loneliness, intimacy, and vulnerability.
Orr is no stranger to the art form because his sister is a ballerina, but one particular experience watching the Santa Fe Ballet a few years ago has stayed with him.
“It was so beautiful and so powerful that I cried,” he says. “I had never experienced something like that, that such exquisite art could touch me so deeply.”
Orr says that after that transformative experience, he became obsessed with the arts, frequently seeking out powerful aesthetic experiences. He founded Boston Moving Arts Productions (BMAP) to fund dancers’ work and bring similarly life-altering experiences to Boston audiences who may be unfamiliar with the power of dance.
Orr’s goal with this BMAP production is to make the audience feel involved and understood during the performance. He even aims to incorporate their feedback into the show through talk-back sessions with the choreographers after every piece. He describes this as a ritual of giving thanks and showing vulnerability, and says it affords the audience an opportunity to reflect on their emotional experiences.
“It’s an experiment,” he says of the conversation sessions. “I’m not saying I know the answer. I’m not saying I’ve got this down.”
Local choreographers Ali Kenner Brodsky, Aysha Upchurch, Whitney Schmanski, and Chavi Bansal have pieces featured in the show.
Though the performance will be in Boston, its choreographers and dancers honor deep connections to Cambridge, where dance studios are essential to the community but are struggling to survive as rents increase. Bansal describes Cambridge’s vibrant Dance Complex as her home base and Peter DiMuro, its executive artistic director as a major mentor. Orr’s Cambridge connection runs deep—he served for a year as the executive director of Green Street Studios, which closed due to rising rents last week.
Orr emphasizes Cambridge’s role as the heart of the Boston dance community, with such institutions as Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre and the iconic, long-standing Dance Complex.
“There isn’t a dancer in Boston that doesn’t know about the Dance Complex,” he says. “When it comes to the grinding day-to-day—going to class, rehearsing, the stuff that creates the artist so they can hone their skill, it’s happening in Cambridge.”
While Orr approaches “In My Heart” through the lens of audience experience, the choreographers he works with see this production as a way to showcase their deeply personal work.
Bansal is presenting “Touched By Water,” a thirty-minute piece centering on the paradoxical themes often associated with water—cleanliness and purification are paired with more destructive qualities.
Beyond exploring the contradictory qualities of water, “Touched By Water” also relates back to the production’s broad themes of intimacy and interconnectedness.
“Water is a source of safety and security when you are in the womb of the mother,” she explains. “This [piece] shows the relationship between a mother and a daughter. There is this sense of relationship and connectedness between different people.”
Bansal says that “Touched By Water” began conceptually during her residency at the University of Stavanger in Norway in 2011. In 2015, during a Catalyst Residency at The Dance Complex, Bansal rebuilt and refined the work further. Live Arts Boston funding enabled her to incorporate it into “In My Heart.” Now, she explains, the performance’s shape is totally different than at the outset.
In her work, Bansal incorporates kalaripayattu, an Indian martial art form that emphasizes grounded movement from the core of the body. She says her studies in kalaripayattu have immensely changed her “movement vocabulary.”
Through “In My Heart,” Orr hopes to bring the audience an aesthetic experience that moves him like that fateful ballet-watching experience he had in Santa Fe.
“In My Heart” will be playing Nov. 8 and 9 at Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont St. For more information and to buy tickets, visit https://www.bcaonline.org/.