We’ve all heard of the most famous dance companies out there: New York City Ballet, the Bolshoi Ballet, the Paris Opera. They’re the companies with prestige and plenty of renown. And they deserve it. But what about those smaller, equally impressive, yet unorthodox dance companies? Those full of unusual talent, those harder to pin down – have we heard of them?
If we’re immersed in dance culture, then maybe. But more often than not, no. These companies are by definition more esoteric, because no longer can you have a huge group of dancers fill the stage. Instead of focusing on corps work, where the individual disappears into the mass, these smaller dance companies tend to focus more on the specific, on each dancer as an individual. And that’s what I like about them.
There are plenty of small dance groups out there, but the best of them tend to be light on their feet, innovative, and full of talented dancers that continually surprise us.
Think of them like small start-ups in the tech world. While national companies have more funding, local grounding, and a regular season, smaller dance projects fit in the cracks in theater programming, have smaller touring costs, and can be more experimental by nature.
This structure can lead to breakthroughs in style and exciting mixtures of form, and if popular and appreciated enough, these new styles eventually become incorporated into the mainstream dance world. Just like in the tech world.
For the purposes of this article, I’ll be defining small contemporary dance companies as having no more than 20 dancers. While some of them stay mostly in their hometown and perform there, many tour the world with one or two productions at a time.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, simply the companies that have most caught my attention. Let’s take a look.