Since its founding in 2001, the San Francisco-based Janice Garrett & Dancers has rapidly become one of the most respected small modern dance troupes in the Bay Area. Garrett’s choreography is notable as much for its craftsmanship as for its dazzling speed, musical clarity and wit. Spark follows Garrett and her dancers on the road to their sixth San Francisco season and reveals why all the hard work and sacrifices are worth it.
Garrett came to dance relatively late, at the age of 23, after she had already graduated with a B.S. in mathematics from Stanford. She subsequently studied dance at Mills College, then, in 1980, moved to New York, where she joined the modern dance company of Dan Wagoner, an alumnus of the Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham and Paul Taylor companies.
After 10 years in New York, Garrett returned to the Bay Area, although she continued to work extensively in Europe, choreographing pieces for the Scottish Dance Theatre, London Contemporary’s 4D Performance Group, the London Contemporary Dance School and the School for Modern Dance in Denmark. At the London Contemporary Dance Theater, she collaborated with British director and choreographer Jonathan Lunn on a range of productions and built a reputation for whimsical, kinetic dances.
In 2001, Garrett put together an evening of her own work at San Francisco’s ODC Theater, assembling a group of eight local dancers who would later form the core of her own company, Janice Garrett & Dancers. In only a few short years, her company attracted substantial attention, garnering five nominations from the Isadora Duncan Dance Awards. Garrett herself was nominated in 2004 as one of Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch,” and demand for her skills and talent grew, abroad as a teacher for Rambert Dance Company, DV8 Physical Theatre and Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures and at home as a teacher for ODC Commons.
Garrett’s work, which has been described by one critic as “exuberantly fluid,” draws not only on her wealth of experience as a choreographer, but also on events in her life. The patterns and connections that tie lives together forms a theme in her work, and it’s an interest that she pursues in her capacity as director of performing arts for the Center for Changing Systems, where she develops new and innovative models of communication and nonlinear decision making.