By Larry Williams
Susana B. Williams’ passion for creating dances will take the Kentucky resident to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland this August, where she will do what artist love most. Perform!
As Director of Dance-Forms Productions, she will showcase the work of an international group of dancers and choreographers –- an effort that has allowed her to organize twenty-two similar events all over the world during the past ten years.
While the festival’s crowd marvel at the things to do, Williams will focus on five days of performance, featuring choreographers and dancers from four countries.
“There are so many great choreographers who are not being given an opportunity to present their work. I want to do that. I want to give them that chance,” said Williams, who started dancing as a child growing up in her native country, Guatemala. She began concentrating on choreography in her twenties.
“I extend an invitation to choreographers who are willing to invest in themselves and who are interested in expanding their knowledge of other cultures, as well as promoting their work abroad. I look for choreographers who see these thrilling events as occasions to benefit their professional development and boost their careers.”
A Kentucky resident for twenty-one years, Williams founded Dance-Forms Productions in 1994, producing shows at performing-arts festivals around the world. Choreographers wishing to participate should visit the web site, www.danceformsproductions.com,
Williams handles most of the details single handedly – coordinating with the festivals, selecting the venues, and choosing the choreographers from the hundreds who apply. Only ten or so are chosen for each of the showcases presented – about three per year. While the emphasis is on modern dance, other forms of contemporary dance also are featured, including classical ballet, jazz, and ethnic styles.
Williams brings “The 23rd International American Choreographers’ Showcase” to the Garage Theater on Grindlay Street Court, from August 12 through August 16. This will be the third time the showcase is held in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
“I’ve long felt that the Edinburgh Festival is a fantastic venue for dance. The response is always wonderful,” she said. “I’m excited to integrate my showcase of international contemporary dance with the Fringe.”
This year, dancers and choreographers come from as far as Guatemala, the USA, and Spain, and include winners of celebrated international choreography and dance competitions.
Williams will perform her new dance, “The Wacah Chan,” inspired by the Maya believe that the Wacah Chan (the tree of life) is the communication conduit between the supernatural and the human world. “Choreography allows me to organize events in space and time, while I discover new ways of expressing ideas in movement,” she said.
At fifty-four, Williams is as lithe and energetic as any dancer half her age. She learned her first ballet steps shadowing her older sister Brenda, who is also a dancer. At age nine she entered Guatemala’s official school of dance and by eleven, she launched her dance career with Ballet Guatemala. “Yeah, for $25 a month,” she recalled with a chuckle.
She danced with the company for ten years, honing her craft and earning scholarships with major ballet companies in Mexico, Canada, and Nina Vyroubova in Paris, France. She performed with Guatemala’s Modern and Folklore Dance Company, the Contemporary Dance Company of Xalapa, Mexico, and choreographer Gene Hill Sagan, le Centre Culturel de Vitry, in France. In 1978 she co-founded and directed two dance companies in El Salvador, and subsequently took the helm as artistic director of the Modern and Folklore Dance Company of Guatemala in 1980.
Four years later Williams created Thought-Forms Dance Company, a school and performing company, which trained dancers such as Kim Olson, who later became a solo dancer with the acclaimed Stephen Petronio Company.
Thought-Forms maintained a grueling schedule, appearing at the Kentucky Center’s Bomhard and Boyd Martin Experimental theaters, and many festivals and civic celebrations throughout Kentucky. “One year we did a nine-city tour of the Midwest and even performed in the 7th Saitama International Choreographers’ Competition in Japan,” Susana said.
As many of her students grew and went off to college, or on to larger dance companies, Williams turned her attention to choreography, and mentoring dance-makers through the challenge of becoming self-producing artist. She transitioned from a dance company to a production company where she saw a need for showcasing emerging and distinguished choreographers in an international setting. Through her studies and travels she developed a large international network of dancers, teachers and choreographers. She taps this network using her fluency in English, Spanish, and French to engage theaters and coordinate venues worldwide. (She also understands German, Italian, and Portuguese.)
Dance-Forms Productions has delighted international festivals with exciting presentations of contemporary dance. Each showcase is a unique blend of distinguished choreographers and dancers from around the world. Through these artists’ professional efforts and dedication to dance, art becomes reality across the globe. The showcase has appeared at prestigious festivals in Austria, France, Germany, Guatemala, Lithuania, Mexico, Monaco, the Netherlands, Scotland, Serbia, and the USA.
Recently, she was chosen to be one of only twelve representatives from the United States to sit on the “experts committee,” which adjudicated the 2002 Nijinsky Awards for best dancers, choreographers, and dance productions awarded in Monaco last December.
This summer, her attention turns to the upcoming showcase where Williams will spend much of her time at the Garage Theater at the Edinburgh Festival, making sure everything is in place. “It’s very exciting. I love doing this,” Williams said, with a sparkle in her eyes. She also looks forward to performing. “I don’t think I could be happy without dancing.”