Literary Works Inspire Artists’ Works

                                                                                                                         By Royce Dunn

                                                                                                                           Special To The Collegian

Photo courtesy of Jasmin la Caris Photography/

Photo courtesy of Jasmin la Caris Photography/

Caris and Company brought “Literary Movements” to life Saturday at The Grand 1401 in Downtown Fresno.

It was a poetic collaboration of literature and contemporary dance that was inspired by Maya Angelou’s poem “And Still I Rise.”

Caris and Company’s founder and artistic director Jasmin la Caris had an inspired vision of movement and dance when she heard Angelou’s words.

After translating Angelou’s emotion and voice into a dance piece, Caris saw a greater vision.

“We should do a whole show like this, where we read literature and poetry, stories and even statements that inspire us, and then create a dance on it,” Caris said.

The company’s dancers and choreographers began searching for works they felt could inspire their creativity.

“I said, ‘Dancers, what I want you to do is go out and look at poetry, any kind of literature, bring it back to me and then show me what kind of concept and movement you have’,” Caris said.

After auditioning their pieces, the dancers and choreographers connected ideas to develop the vision as a whole.

Co-artistic director Danny Moua found great inspiration for the concepts behind his pieces “And The Tree Was Happy” and “The Road We Walk.” The first was based on “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverman which Moua said was dear to him because of his mother. Moua said a big inspiration for his work has always dealt with choices.

“Every piece that I have ever done in my life has been about choices and the roads,” Moua said.

Moua choreographed these selections as well as performed in several others throughout the show.

Caris not only choreographed and performed in the show but also produced “Literary Movements” alongside her husband, Omar Nare.

“It’s a lot of work I’ve got to say, but I love it, and that’s why I’m in it,” Caris said.

It was a process of little steps: from the creative process to finding funding, until the final dress rehearsal. Planning “Literary Movements” was a year long process which blossomed over time.

“We had some short piece, we had some long pieces and it takes a lot of little steps but it’s all worth it,” Caris said.

The show displayed an exciting and emotional range for both dance and literature.

“Literary Movements” was a 10-piece suite of performances sponsored by Ballroomlive. Ballroomlive loaned its studio to Caris and Company while “Literary Movements” was in development.

For the last four years, Caris has been developing and crafting her dance company; finding dancers with a passion and talent for their art. Moua has played a big role in this process since his start with the company.

“I love the audition process because it really helps me to find myself and the dancers we’ll have in our shows,” Moua said.

Still in its adolescence, Caris plans on taking her company to greater levels.

“We are just trying to spread our wings further and further out. We actually want to travel as well as a company,” Caris said.

Ideas have already been brewing for the company’s next performance aimed at treating the audience to something unexpected. While exact plans are still in development, Caris said possible site-specific performances will be offered in the near future.

For more information on upcoming events, see the website