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The Pilot Dance Project Explores Women’s Lives in “Aureate”

Choreographers Adam Castañeda and Ashley Horn delve into decadence and sensuality.

“Aureate” dancer Sarah Leung (Photos by Ashley Horn)

It’s modern. It’s abstract. And it’s completely up to the audience as to what it means.

“Aureate,” the latest evening-length dance program by Pilot Dance Project, is based on women’s stories, according to Executive and Artistic Director Adam Castañeda. “But the audience can interpret the dances however they want,” he says.

The program’s title, aureate, is defined as “denoting, made of, or having the color of gold.”

“Aureate is a reference to gold, and its beauty and value,” says Castañeda. In addition to femininity and goddess mythology, the program will reference decadence, luxury, and indulgence.

A cisgender gay man, Castañeda is co-choreographer for “Aureate.” He worked with longtime collaborator Ashley Horn on the project.

Horn, a bisexual artist, is a well-known local choreographer, designer, and filmmaker. In addition to creating three pieces for “Aureate,” Horn designed the costumes for the project.

She first worked with Pilot Dance Project in 2017, setting “Vesper,” an evening-length program, on the company. That work explored rituals. The two choreographers revisited “Vesper” in 2022 for Fringe Festival participation. Later the ideas first discussed in “Vesper” became the basis for “Aureate.”

“Aureate” dancer Sierra Johnson

“Aureate” is made up of ten distinct sections. While the works presented are not narratives, the choreographers had the stories of many women in mind as they created the dances.

The works are open to interpretation by the audience but Horn suggests viewers will be able to see some aspect of themselves on stage.

“I think if the audience comes with no preconceived idea of the work they will be best prepared for it to take them to a place that speaks to them,” says Horn.

Castañeda’s new works for “Aureate” explore goddess and divine feminine iconography. That includes a suite of dances devoted to the six Marys of the New Testament, including Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Mary Magdalene.

Another section is based on birds.

“I’ve never wanted to create a dance about birds. I think for many choreographers, it’s a sophomoric subject matter,” he says.

“Birds are not like mammals; they are quite aggressive, even violent. I wanted my dance to capture that aspect of the bird kingdom in a way that addresses the violence of human nature.”

For “Aureate,” Horn, who is a mother approaching middle age, focused on the value in lived experience and learned wisdom.

One of Horn’s works, “Golden Tendons,” is based on human anatomy.

“[It’s] as if all of the covering of the body, both natural and put upon … has been stripped away from these women and they are just these golden tendons and muscles moving with one another, unburdened but also completely vulnerable.”

“Aureate” dancers Adam Castaneda and Kristina Prats

The cast is made up of several professional dancers including Pilot Company Project members Dorianne Castillo, Jade Devault, and Carlos Guzman. They’re joined by members of Castañeda’s Community Ensemble, including Karen Imas, Aaron Le, and Hector Martinez. The Ensemble comprises dancers of all abilities and experiences.

Like Horn, Castañeda works closely with his dancers in creating choreography.

“The choreography, or the development of the movement, comes from the process of working with my dancers. They add qualities and instincts that enrich the phrase work. Often we build movement in the rehearsal process together.

“This is especially true with my Community Ensemble practice. My Community Ensemble is a group of mixed-level performers, some with very minimal dance and performance experience.”

Aurum Son Founder and Director Sonia Flores wrote an original score for the production and will perform live during the performance. Edgar Guajardo contributed design elements evoking the grandeur of Eastern Orthodox architecture and iconography. Members of the Fifth Ward community provided artwork that will be used as projections.

WHAT: “Aureate”
WHEN: June 22 and 23, 2024
WHERE: The DeLuxe Theater, 3303 Lyons Ave.
INFO: Visit Pilot Dance Project for information and tickets.

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Olivia Flores Alvarez

Olivia Flores Alvarez is a frequent contributor to OutSmart Magazine.
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