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Dance – The Hart Behind the MixMatch Dance Festival

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My dear readers, it is my great pleasure to share with you the work of my colleague and treasured friend, Amanda Hart. She is diversified and successful in the dance community, from studio teacher to choreographer to artistic director and beyond, and her passion for dance makes Los Angeles a better place to be an artist for us all. I hope her story inspires your own, as we can always learn from and lean on one another.

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Amanda as a young dancer

A California native, Amanda’s early training began with the Sierra Performing Arts Center in Visalia, California under the technical instruction of Susan Pallas and Melinda Cordell (ABT). After winning many awards in the competition dance world, she was accepted into The Fresno Ballet Company and continued on to receive her BFA in Dance from the California Institute of the Arts in 2005.

Amanda was accepted in the Strathmore and Cambridge Women’s Who’s Who and was nominated for a 2009 Horton Award for Outstanding Production of a Festival or Series. This year, she was recognized as a Woman of Outstanding Leadership in 2014 by The International Women’s Leadership Association and had the pleasure of accepting the Best Dance Company of 2013 award by the Pasadena Awards Program. She is the Artistic Director of her own, Hart Pulse Dance Company (HPDC), HartBeats Dance Outreach Programs, annual MixMatch Dance Festival and is currently on the Board of Directors for the Dance Resource Center of Los Angeles (DRC).

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MixMatch Dance Festival, photo by victorvicphoto.com

The Annual MixMatch Dance Festival was created 8 years ago by Amanda Hart and Sandra Rasor as a small-scale production bringing together a few local artists in an attempt to provide exposure for local choreographers and establish Hart Pulse Dance Company as a new contemporary dance company in the LA area.

What was initially conceived as a small project by and for recent CalArts graduates quickly turned into a larger-scale production the following year, when Hart Pulse Dance Company invited dance companies and choreographers from across the US to submit their works for consideration. MixMatch’s third year brought so many submissions that three completely different shows were needed to showcase all the accepted talent!

By year five, Hart Pulse Dance Company’s Board of Directors decided they needed a larger facility. MixMatch was moved from Venice’s Electric Lodge to Santa Monica’s Miles Playhouse, where it currently presents 4-5 different productions in one weekend at the end of August annually.

MixMatch presents an array of dance, dancers and choreographers to the LA community and connects artists within the dance world, cultivating beautiful, effective relationships that produce more and more dance in LA, in Southern California, in the United States, and beyond.

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KC: MixMatch is coming up this weekend, and there are over 60 pieces on the bill! How many hats do you wear to manage a festival of this size?
AH: Currently, I wear almost all of the hats. I am in charge of producing, directing and organizing the entire festival. Organizing submissions, organizing all materials needed from artists, communicating with the artists, preparing the music and programs for the performances and preparing the materials that my team will need during the week of production.

The Board reviews applicant submissions. Sandra Rasor is House Manager and is extremely important the week of the shows. She checks all dancers in during tech/dress and gives the low down to all participants to keep everything organized. May Choi runs sound and helps me in the booth while I do lights. We have various Stage Managers – Erin Demos, Angela Todaro, Morgan Ashley – all either HPDC Board Members or dancers, who keep back stage running smoothly and everyone up to speed on where we are in the show. The same people have consistently filled these rolls and this contributes directly to a successful run. We are constantly told how smooth and professional the festival is, and it’s because we all know the ropes, my staff all know me and how I like things, and we’re all one big happy family.

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MixMatch Festival 2013, photo by victorvicphoto.com

I truly believe that if you want something done right, you do it yourself. MixMatch has grown beyond my individual grasp, even if I do so much with it still. My team is amazing and I’m so lucky that I trust them and they make up for what I can’t do. It really allows me the ability to give 110% to the heavy load I love bearing.

KC: Tell us about the lineage of the HPDC forming and what you’ve learned along the way that would help others who are aspiring to have or already have a company together. What was the vision behind your conviction?
AH: MixMatch started because I wanted to start HPDC. I just didn’t have enough material to host my own show and wanted to share the stage with other amazing artists. The first show was invite only. It was such a success that I was able to create HPDC and complete the 501c3 process, making HPDC a Non-Profit dance company.

I wanted to make an actual company, because I wanted to dive into bringing more stable contemporary dance to LA. I wanted to have a base, an actual product to market, outside of myself. I also wanted to have other choreographers work for HPDC and wanted to bring dancers on and have them say, “I dance for HPDC.” This has expanded to getting asked to do shows hosted by other companies frequently. It’s a wonderful compliment. We’ve traveled to New York, Santa Barbara and do local shows too.

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photo by victorvicphoto.com

KC: I’d like to acknowledge the awards and grants you’ve received for the Company. How did you make this happen?
AH: We’ve received our awards out of the blue. Again, another amazing compliment and such a blessing. I will randomly receive notice that we’ve won these awards and am beyond grateful. I never feel like HPDC is big enough to be known. So it’s always a surprise. I don’t expect people to know who I am or what HPDC is. I WANT them to know about HPDC and work really hard for this goal. But I guess it’s good I think we have a far way to go, or maybe I wouldn’t work so hard.

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Best Dance Company Award 2013 to HPDC from Pasadena Awards Program

KC: What were your original goals for MixMatch? How have your aspirations progressed?
AH: MixMatch happened because Sandra Rasor and I wanted to do a show one night while we were out at dinner. I had done a mixed-bill show with my fellow graduates Jenae Ferguson Milhalik, Micki Bless and Sarah Lockwood called “Sugar Struggle” a few months prior and wanted to keep the ball rolling. We had all JUST graduated with our BFAs in Dance from CalArt. In our first year into the real world, we were ready to take it by storm. I’m grateful I started young because all the work didn’t seem like anything but fun, almost make-believe. You feel less accountable and more risky. I learned a lot in my early to mid-twenties that I’m glad I have under my belt now.

MixMatch has grown dramatically every year! It’s unreal and I’m just trying to catch up. Our team needs to grow and we need to keep rolling with this thing! It’s amazing! I love seeing the community come together for dance AND I love bringing so many artists together. It’s THE BEST feeling to have so many artists working collectively , feeling united, joyous and loving each other so much. It fuels the fire.

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MixMatch Festival 2013, photo by victorvicphoto.com

Originally, I wanted to have a fun little show with my friends. Now, I want to expose as many artists as I can and bring all forms of dance to my audiences, BAM, all in one show. “Come to MixMatch, see everything!!” That’s what I want. And I want it all to be affordable. MixMatch tickets are only $17 this year, our first ticket rise from $15 over the last 7 years. It will stay $17 for a very long time. MixMatch also has the lowest submission fee I’ve ever come across for festival consideration. And we offer our artists professional, high-end video and photos, and give participating companies comp tickets. While we do hope to turn a growing profit with each passing year, it’s not THE goal of the festival. THE goal is our audience and our artists’ experience.

KC: How do you see MixMatch contributing to the LA dance scene?
AH: MixMatch brings artists, from all over the US, together to not only perform with one another, but to create and cultivate lasting relationships in life and business. Many of our artists work together after MixMatch for many years. Many friendships are built within the performance weekend. It’s one of my favorite things to see unfold.

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MixMatch Festival 2013, photo by victorvicphoto.com

Our location in Santa Monica is pretty central to the 3rd Street Promenade, a local and tourist hot spot. This helps us promote and grow our audiences. The big picture with MixMatch is to hit everyone with everything dance! We want every type of person; artists, non-artists, all shapes, shades and ages, all humans period, to be at MixMatch because they know they’ll see something they like since we offer such a mixed performance, every performance. We want our bill to be more and more mixed each year. Hip Hop next to tap next to ballet next to modern, next to tribal and pole. You name it, we want it.

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Amanda teaching ballet to her dance students in Montrose, CA

KC: I know your students value your commitment to them and passion for dance. How does teaching continue your mission?

AH: When I teach, I keep the same philosophy: I want everyone to love dance. My favorite thing about teaching is sharing my love of dance, seeing dance make my students happy, and watching them love themselves through hard work and accomplishment with dance. It’s magical.

KC: Advice! What truths do you hold dear that others may benefit from knowing?
AH: Be a good human! Dance is amazing and should never hold any secrets. The dance world in LA is a struggle, but still successful. We make a difference! We are so blessed to share our art. As creators, we need to come together for our common goals to present our work and be successful with our creativity. I’m a firm believer of sharing and caring with dance. And I love talking to fellow dancers about ideas and advise. We all learn so much from each other.

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Miss Amanda and her tiny dancers

KC: Future exploits, expansions, deviations? What lies ahead for Lady Hart?
AH: Growth and more hard work. Let’s get at it!

Thank you Amanda for your vision and inspiration!

The Eighth Annual MixMatch Dance Festival is August 28 – August 31st. Click here for more information, and click here for tickets.

A sample of the companies participating (click on name for links):
ArtBark International, AXXIOM Dance Collective, Nancy Evans Dance Theatre, Jacksonville Dance TheatreMerge Dance Theatre,  Fuse Dance Company, Watson Dance, Hart Pulse Dance Company, Critical Mass Dance Companyand more!!!!

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