Body and Soul Dance Theatre Continues to Evolve By Helene Foster
It’s been more than 30 years since Barbara Sloan and Gilda Pianelli joined forces to build a dance troupe that would become one of South Florida’s premier modern dance companies. Body and Soul Dance Theatre emerged in 1983 as a combination of Sloan’s artistic vision and Pianelli’s administration and staging expertise. The company performed around the world and throughout South Florida.
Now, Body and Soul Dance Theatre is still going strong - but with a different purpose and mission. Under the direction of Sheila Scanlan, it was revamped in 2002 as a nonprofit entity. Still featuring professional dancers and captivating modern choreography, Body and Soul Dance Theatre has been embraced by the South Florida arts community.
Scanlan, an accomplished dancer from New York, was one of Sloan’s long-time students. In the late 1980s she started Soul Expressions, a dance program for at-risk teens. Also a former special education teacher, Scanlan loves sharing her love of dance with children and the community.
| "ArtServe has been great to us, giving us a place to rehearse, store materials and offering us wonderful assistance." Sheila Scanlan|
"Barbara had seen the work that I was doing with the teens and loved it," Scanlan explains. "At that time, Body and Soul Dance Theatre was dormant and re-opening as a nonprofit just made sense. There was 20 years’ worth of great choreography available to us."
The conversion to a nonprofit was finalized in 2002, but the company encountered some bumps along the way. The devastation left by Hurricane Wilma in 2005, for example, made it difficult to get things going. However, by 2009 the company blossomed with six professional dancers and began collaborating with other organizations in the community.
Today, dancers ranging in age from 24 to 50 perform together. Body and Soul Dance Theatre is in-residence at ArtServe and Scanlan is grateful for the partnership.
"ArtServe has been great to us, giving us a place to rehearse, store materials and offering us wonderful assistance," explains Scanlan. "Our dancers are a part of South Florida’s cultural community; they are approachable and accessible, down-to-earth, caring individuals and are an interesting mix of people."
Scanlan adds that with each season the company expands its horizons by incorporating other art forms into its stage performances. For example, this past season’s Psychosis used monologues written and performed by the dancers and incorporated videos and creative lighting to convey the lives of three psychiatric patients.
As a nonprofit organization, Body and Soul Dance Theatre has received funding for productions such as this one through the Creative Investment Program of the Broward Cultural Division. A partnership with the City of Deerfield Beach has also been helpful and has allowed Scanlan to teach creative movement for preschoolers as well as modern fusion and advanced modern classes for older children and adults at community centers.
For more information about Body and Soul Dance Theatre, visit bodyandsouldancetheatre.org
or call (954) 816-5682