- November 27, 2013
On a late summer day in 2003, Leymis Bolaños Wilmott sat down to write in her journal. The dance outreach coordinator had just moved to Sarasota with her master’s degree in performance and choreography from Florida State University, and she was ready to set new goals. She opened her journal and jotted down her next aspiration: “Start my own dance company.”
On Sept. 18, Wilmott will celebrate 10 years at the helm of Fuzión Dance Artists, Sarasota’s first alternative contemporary dance company, which she co-founded with friend and fellow FSU master’s student Rachael Inman.
“When I moved here, I realized there wasn’t any modern or contemporary dance happening,” says Wilmott. “After our first few performances, we became actively involved with dancers and educators in the public schools, and we were teaching master classes every week. We became Sarasota’s first contemporary dance company.”
Fuzión Dance Artists got its start in January 2004, when Wilmott and Inman, along with a few dancers from their alma mater, held their inaugural performance in Five Points Park. Slowly, over the next decade, the company gained a reputation as the area’s first modern dance company — and one that wasn’t afraid to experiment.
Sam Alfstad, owner of Aflstad& Contemporary, the venue hosting Fuzion’s 10th anniversary performance Sept. 18, says he was introduced to the company last year during a Georgia O’Keefe and Alfred Stieglitz exhibition he was hosting at his former gallery, Ice House. Alfstad remembers being impressed with the company’s collaborations with visual artists, so he invited them to perform at the exhibition.
“They had six performances in the gallery, amid all the art,” says Alfstad, who later became one of Fuzión’s board members. “Every time we had one of the dances, we had a bigger audience. The word of mouth was great.”
For the anniversary celebration, the 11 company dancers will continue their collaborative tradition by choreographing a performance inspired by work from local visual artists, including paintings, prints and photographs hung on the gallery wall.
“We’re going to have a lot of artists who have worked with Fuzión over the years showing that night,” says Alfstad. “The artists will put up things they’ve done over the years. It’ll be a celebration for people who know and care about Fuzión.”
The event will also be an opportunity for the company to unveil renderings of its planned new rehearsal space in the future Rosemary Square project, as well as its new name. Wilmott hopes these changes will continue to elevate the company and bolster the local dance community.
“It’s going to be a radically different name,” she says. “It kept happening in Sarasota that after each performance, people would come up to us and ask who and what we were, even after years of performing in the community.”
With the possibility of a permanent home in the Rosemary District in the near future, Alfstad says he wants to get contemporary dance into the minds of dance and art-lovers who frequent the Sarasota Ballet and other large arts organizations, and encourage them to support Fuzión, too. And in a town that prides itself on its cultural reputation, he sees contemporary dance as the missing piece of the Sarasota arts spectrum.
“Contemporary dance is a key part of any cultural milieu,” he says. “It’s one of the pillars of culture, and we’d really like to see that happen here.”
A few weeks before the 10th anniversary performance, Wilmott was taking a break from her busy rehearsal schedule for a cup of coffee at the Coffee Loft, one of her favorite places to unwind, down the road from New College, where she teaches dance.
As she was waiting in line, a young ballet dancer overheard her discussing Fuzión and her outlook on contemporary dance in Sarasota, so she came up to introduce herself.
In the type of interaction Wilmott says happens on a weekly basis, the two exchanged contact information, discussed the upcoming performance and talked about her attending one of Fuzión’s classes.
For Wilmott, it’s the perfect example of how Fuzión Dance Artists has found success throughout the last decade: one heart at a time.
“I love nurturing our dance community,” she says. “We’re inclusive, but we still experiment and push the boundaries of what contemporary dance can be.”