Thursday, June 30, 2022

Artistic director of BODYTRAFFIC at the Wharton takes dance to the next level

February 17, 2022
<p>BODYTRAFFIC, a Los Angeles based dance company is coming to the Wharton Center on Feb. 19, 2022. </p>

BODYTRAFFIC, a Los Angeles based dance company is coming to the Wharton Center on Feb. 19, 2022.

BODYTRAFFIC, the critically acclaimed dance company with rave reviews from the LA Times and President Barack Obama is dancing their way into the Wharton Center under the artistic direction of Tina Berkett. Berkett is both a successful dancer and manager of the company from its humble local beginnings to now nationwide success.

Berkett launched the company with the sole vision of bringing the passion of dance to audiences, envisioning a place where her dancers could explore the art and tell stories like no one had seen in the world of dance.

“When we started the company, we really just had this idea that we would fulfill our dreams as dancers and cross some items off our bucket list and the response in Los Angeles was amazing,” Berkett said.

From there, the recognition of New York, the center of dance, pushed Berkett to see where the company could go next. The company then began to tour and see audiences both nationally and internationally.

“Little by little it's really grown so beautifully and I feel so honored by the success and the love of the company," Berkett said. "Everyday I’m completely shocked and overwhelmed by the people that really are interested in the work that we’re doing … I just love that the dancers get to experience that appreciation for how hard that they work.”

Even with all this success, BODYTRAFFIC has not let it get to their heads. Berkett explained that the company is not only familial, but also put their health, wellness and friendship above surface level popularity.

“There's such an openness that allows them to establish and maintain a very unusual closeness," Berkett said. "We really are a family. We’re like a touring family: The Partridge Family of dance.”

She said that in most cities they tour in, you most likely can find the company together somewhere on the town after the show, celebrating together. Berkett thinks that this love translates to the stage, only bringing more connection to their dance.
Berkett also encourages this tour life instead of staying in the studio. She believes that this change of pace invigorates the dancing seen on stage.

“It brings such a freshness to our work because people are seeing things that maybe we have been performing for years, and then audiences are taking them in for the first time," Berkett said. "It really allows for a constant refreshing process.”

However, the dancing does not end on stage. Berkett continues to be a dancer as well as the director, hanging onto her favorite passion while still working as the logistical manager.

“There's something about the fact that I’m still dancing in the work that allows me access to it that is different than when a director just sits in the front of the room and has space from it,” Berkett explained.

Both Berkett and the company end up working out kinks in the show together, physically accomplishing goals together, while Berkett also makes time to raise funds, schedule performances and technically run the show.

“It grounds me and reminds me why we do all of this," Berkett said. "So when I can find the time to squeeze it in, I feel like in many ways it makes me a better director.”

While she has been running the company for the past decade and a half, she holds this performance close to her heart. The show for this tour encompasses three stories that Berkett thinks will leave the audience uplifted, especially after the challenging last couple of years in performing arts.

“There are joyful aspects to dance," Berkett said. "It's not just a heavy modern dance concert. This is a different kind of thing. It has lively music and a lot of energy.”

Without spoiling too much, Berkett gave a sneak peek of what's to come in the Cobb Great Hall at the Wharton. The first piece centers around how life can be hard, but the only thing to be done about that is to dance and feel joy between the hard times.

The second piece tells the story of a couple, which Berkett believes to be incredibly poignant for the time that we're in with isolation from the pandemic, which may increase the amount of tension in love and between couples. The piece depicts the couple at home going through the motions of their relationship.

The third piece, entitled SNAP, has a slightly different tone. It tries to convince the audience to get off their phone and not conform to social media. Berkett explains that the idea is to snap out of the power of social media and engage with the freedom of expression.

“The main themes that really stands out to me … is an overwhelming sense of connection that dance brings,” Berkett summarized about the show.

However, BODYTRAFFIC is not just about dancing; they specialize in community outreach and education through dance. They not only work with younger people to empower their love for dance and creative exploration, but also working with dancers with disabilities.

“I think that (education) work is central to the work that we do at BODYTRAFFIC," Berkett said. "I think that our dancers have a greater sense of the world and the importance of pushing performing arts forward because we do education and outreach work."

They also work with the community by spearheading sensory shows: performances that cater to those with sensory problems.

“It's a performance that we adapt in order to make it comfortable and inviting for mostly children who are on the autism spectrum,” Berkett said.

With this special performance at the Wharton, Berkett sees the pieces on stage as a celebration.

“There is something kind of guttural that draws people towards dance and I feel like this program really captures that,” Berkett said.

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Berkett and BODYTRAFFIC's hope is to be part of the conversation about hope in the performing arts after the pandemic and create a bigger discussion on what the arts are and what they could be.

Make sure to see the amazing dancers and storytellers at BODYTRAFFIC at the Wharton Center Feb. 19.


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