The term "contemporary modern dance" can be a little too intimidating, especially considering Bare Bait Dance, the city's local professional company, typically mixes playfulness and humor into their original work.
So those unfamiliar with dance could consider "Springboard," a showcase for local choreographers, an opportunity.
As company member Freya Sargent said, "It's fun to see a sampler platter of what dance can be."
You can see "the range of dance as a medium, you get to see how versatile it is," filled with personality and dynamicism," she said.
Sargent, three other dance company members and two guests contributed original work to the program.
Joy French, the artistic director, sees the showcase as a chance for any dancer-choreographers in the company to develop their voices and ideas.
Sargent has worked with Bare Bait in the past two years as a guest and joined as a company member for this season. She moved to Missoula and is studying for a degree in resource conservation at the University of Montana.
"Bare Bait has been my avenue to dance in Montana," she said. Her previous degree is from the School of Toronto Dance Theatre, a contemporary conservatory in Canada.
For "Springboard," Sargent contributed a piece for three dancers called "What Do We Doves Wear For Clothes?" She said the work, set to three pieces of music by Duke Ellington from the 1950s, is playful and pokes a little bit of fun at classic ideas of femininity, such as "situations where people are trying to vie for attention, and the social dynamics of trying to get each other's attention."
She said she's working more with mood than narrative and sought to challenge the dancers with unusual movements, such as hip and body rolls, while drawing on "classic female movements of sexuality or beauty or elegance, and contrast that with awkwardness or ugliness."
French, who choreographs as well, has a new piece titled, "Basket Upset Brew She Blows Over." She set the piece to choral music, Partita for Eight Singers No. 3 by Caroline Shaw and performed by the vocal group Roomful of Teeth.
It calls for seven dancers and seven chairs, and a "power play" over who gets a seat and who doesn't. The monastic feel adds a layer of "The Handmaid's Tale," but French said it was coincidental.
Faith Morrison, another new company member, created a piece for nine dancers that examines ideas of constraints and restraints, French said. It has a very physical, modern aesthetic with "slow, tense sections," "big quick, staccato gestural sections," and finishes off with "beautiful lifts."
Company members Tara McFarland and Jamie Arnold and alum Allison McKinney also signed up to choreograph pieces. Five pieces didn't make for a full evening, so French decided to try an experiment: she reached out to two prior Bare Bait collaborators who aren't dancers themselves.
"That was more of a wild card, but the idea was that Bare Bait has collaborated with actors in many ways," she said. The question here was, "What does it mean when an actor-director walks in to choreograph a dance piece?"
Her partner, the local actor Jeff Medley, drew on cartoons he used to draw as a child to create a narrative dance that uses a sound score with text.
Jeremy Sher, the actor and chef behind the local "Dirty Sexy Chocolate Show," went for a purely physical original piece.
Sargent said working with Bare Bait offers lots of opportunities. The dancers are paid and the schedule is flexible to accommodate other obligations. The dancers get to perform in a full evening-length piece that French creates from scratch each year. Plus they can take company classes, work with guest artists who come in from out of state, and create work themselves for projects like "Springboard."
"She opens the door to a lot of creative avenues for us," Sargent said.