Ted Simons: Tonight's edition of "Arizona Artbeat" features Tempe-based A Ludwig Dance Theatre, which will celebrate its 35th anniversary with four performances of "Looking Back; Moving Forward." The production features recreated works from the company's past and a new piece that explores the U.S. constitution. Known for using dance as a form of social commentary, A Ludwig Dance will present works that touch on war, politics, and women's rights. More on that with the company's founder and director, but first, photographer Steve Snow gives us a peek at a rehearsal that took place earlier this week.
Ann Ludwig: Why is dance important to me. It's sort of a way of life. It's something that gives answers, asks questions. A science of the arts to my mind. This is our 35th year, and we've been making a lot of dances along the way, one from the early '90s, the war in Iraq, another about women's rights and the role of women many in society. It's always had that kind of political-social bit to it. I keep thinking I'm going to do plain old fun old dance, but it always evolves into something else more often. I guess I just like making dances, and I like maybe I like being able to say things on stage I didn't dare say to somebody in person, I don't know.
Ted Simons: Joining me now is Ann Ludwig, director, choreographer, founder of A Ludwig Dance Theatre. Thank you so much for joining us.
Ann Ludwig: Thank you for having me.
Ted Simons: Oldest performing dance company in Arizona. And actually you started in California, correct?
Ann Ludwig: Yes. In 1977. I moved here to teach at ASU in 1979, so transferred here. And we began.
Ted Simons: How did you get started? Why start a dance troupe? A dance theater, a dance company?
Ann Ludwig: Well, I guess I was a dancer, I had been teaching prior to that, and directing a University dance company in Iowa. And didn't want the conflict, but when I moved to California I was free to form a company and to put on stage what I was anything my head, I guess.
Ted Simons: What were you thinking in your head? Have those thoughts changed over the years?
Ann Ludwig: Well, I think they've kind of followed the flow, and a lot of those thoughts haven't changed, as you look at historically. And I think that's why we're bringing back some of the pieces we are this concert run.
Ted Simons: Yeah. And I know we mentioned a lot of the performance deals with social issues, you were talking in the piece you start off wanting to do a dance and all of a sudden when stuff comes in there. Domestic violence, alcoholism, homelessness, that's pretty serious stuff. How do you translate it to dance?
Ann Ludwig: Well, with difficulty. I think a lot of people feel you can't do that, but that's not the venue for portraying those kinds of issues. The dance should be pretty, and there are a lot of people that don't agree. So it gives people a chance to look at something and think about something and maybe a little different way than they might have before.
Ted Simons: Do you want them to look and think about something, or -- I don't know, maybe a lot of times you try to keep it from being a polemic. Or do you want people to say, here's one stand, give me a better idea if you got it?
Ann Ludwig: I think your audience will be in the same ballpark would be a nice thing. So you're kind of thinking along the same lines, for this kind of a content, this kind of an intent.
Ted Simons: So basically you don't think you'll be -- people won't be screaming and running and throwing things.
Ann Ludwig: They could. I don't know.
Ted Simons: You hear about that kind of stuff about 100 years ago.
Ann Ludwig: I remember during the domestic violence there were several people that walked out.
Ted Simons: Interesting.
Ann Ludwig: They didn't feel the stage was that kind of a place that they came to see a nice lovely concert, and this was poking at something that bothered them.
Ted Simons: And if you had a chance to speak to them face-to-face what would you say?
Ann Ludwig: I'd just ask them to examine some of the reasons why they were feeling that way, and weigh them with the pros and cons.
Ted Simons: When it comes to artistic expression and especially from the ground up, the person who choreographer, the collaborate -- how do you -- domestic violence, how do you turn that into movement? What goes through -- is it visual, it is something that's cerebral?
Ann Ludwig: I think there is a certain gestures. The thing with social kinds of issues, they do have certain gestures that lead someone down the path of trying to understand what that particular intent is. Now, the piece that we're doing in this particular concert has a lot of gestures and a lot of intent, and then some movement that may not seem like it’s part of what we're thinking of. And yet it is. It's an abstraction and it's something that fills the -- I guess fills the void area of places that allows people to get there.
Ted Simons: The upcoming special performances, talk to us more about what you plan on doing and what we plan on seeing.
Ann Ludwig: Well, the first part, looking back. I've pulled three pieces, one from 1981, which is -- what is it, it's five points for computer narrator dancer, and bathtub. David Barker is a theater professor, well known in the city I believe, and he is reading the poetry and there are three dancers kind of cavorting around. I always think of that as sort of a '80s version of the Twilight Zone. And another one deals with women's role in society, women's rights, and therefore men as well. That's one we premiered in New York and took it on tour in Europe. And I always thought I would come back and the situation certainly seems like it's appropriate still.
Ted Simons: Sure. Sure. Well, last question here, the challenges of running a dance company in a down economy. Is it as -- did you have some real trouble in the past few years?
Ann Ludwig: Well, it's been trouble for the past 35 years. I'm not sure I could single out the last two. I think that we have been a small enough company, grass-roots, artist driven organization, like many across the country, and it's hard to snuff us out because we are so small. We don't have the budget of the larger companies and the ballet companies so we can struggle away and pay dancers. And pay administrators. I think the only one that doesn't get paid maybe is yours truly.
Ted Simons: But you're behind it and it sounds like things have been going -- congratulations on 35 years and good luck with the performances and I hope it's a big success and hope you're around for another 35.
Ann Ludwig: Oh, my. That's a long time.
Ted Simons: That’s a lot of dancing, thank you for joining us.
Ann Ludwig: My feet hurt.