Theatre auditoriums across the country sit empty. Ashley Hill, Artistic Director of The Human Experience Modern Dance Company, keeps dancers in motion while bringing the magic of the stage to the safety of our living rooms. Fresh off two open air performances staged for Momentum Toledo, Hill joined forces with The Valentine Theatre for a virtual show that debuted on the theatre’s website in November.
Founded in 2017, THE Modern Dance Company occupied the third floor of the Secor Building before Hill and THE Co-Founder Allie Batey were forced to shutter that space when Covid-19 brought society to a grinding halt back in March. “We loved it, but we’re looking for a new home. That’s what we’re doing this season, staging performances to help raise funds to get us into a new location. We want to stay in downtown Toledo as it grows.”
Keep on dancing
Fresh on the heels of Momentum Toledo, THE and THE2 (an apprentice company focused on dancers aged 13-18) both posted videos of outdoor performances. Even with the knowledge that they are performing outdoors due to necessity, watching the masked dancers leap and glide across leaf-strewn grass in bare feet feels freeing.
Despite THE losing its beloved downtown home earlier this year, Hill and her company make it a point to be a presence in the local arts scene. “We help elevate the cause for different non-profits throughout the community by also being a place for artists in the dance community to perform and continue their craft — or even if they’re just interested in dancing as adults.” Hill elborates. “We have a professional company for adult artists, with performance opportunities that focus on outreach.”
Youth outreach, with THE2, is an area where Hill sees a valuable opportunity to help nurture local artistry. “After we did a few youth arts workshops, we decided to have an apprentice company for ages 13-18,” Hill said. By participating in THE2, aspiring young performers get the opportunity to experience life in the arts firsthand, and forge the creative bonds that will form the foundation of their community.
Community and charity
That community spirit led to “No Love Lost,” a video that served as a dual fundraiser for both THE Modern Dance Company and the Valentine Theatre. The short show went live on the Valentine’s website November 4. Looking ahead, Hill grows animated as she reveals plans for THE’s next big endeavor — Canned Goods Theatre.
“We want to perform and perhaps be sponsored by different missions — The Cherry Street Mission, Sparrow’s Nest, Harvey House — any of those that provide a safe-haven for people. We want to stock the pantry with these shows. If we can do it in person, you can bring something a canned good to cover the cost of part of your ticket, or we can split funds and help to support them with a bi-annual show.”