Creative Help: Doug Usher
August 24, 2020
Bison Days – Fort Collins
November 4, 2020

Without Skipping A Beat

By: Natalie Scarlett, Huckleberry Literary

Many adults dance everyday through childhood and adolescence only to quit completely when they start careers as engineers, teachers, or accountants. “Adulting” gets in the way of dancing and a little part of these dancers is denied forever. 

Amy Smith knows this all too well and started an adult contemporary dance company for this very demographic: adults with dance experience eager to continue choreographing, dancing, and performing in spite of children, careers, and grownup responsibilities. With joyful support from Impulse Dance and Fitness studio owner, Nadia Duncan, Amy held auditions, assembled a company of nine dancers, and had a mere month of rehearsals. Then,  lockdown and “we were a bunch of dancers stuck on our lonely couches wondering what happens next,” lamented Amy.  She and her newly minted company, Impulse Contemporary Co., looked to their mission to seek “performance opportunities that motivate personal and community growth through artistic, athletic, and compelling contemporary movement” and got to creating for the quarantine-friendly medium of film. 

“I never thought I’d be making dance films; that was never the plan,” chuckles artistic director Amy Smith who nonetheless rose to the occasion by choreographing, storyboarding, directing, and editing the dance films herself with the cinegraphic aid of her partner, Andrew Sutcliffe. Since March the company has made a half dozen original short films, participated in the “Make More Art” challenge, an “exquisite corpse” style experiment where artists across multiple mediums collaborate with time constraints. They’ve released several short films shot in outdoor locations suited to the pieces and the choreography, like “Train Tracks.”  The dancers rehearse over Zoom, receive detailed shot-by-shot instructions and counts from the director ahead of time, and run the piece over and over with the camera rolling on location. Despite the static nature of film, these dance pieces still have some of the energy and character of live performance and the unexpected.  Amy says, “Dancing during a pandemic has pushed me to see that art doesn’t have to happen at a studio, even though the studio is important for community.”

Ms. Duncan agrees that the studio space itself holds much of the heart of a company but sees how “studio” can be redefined. “So much of my business is about community and personal connection that I was scared to lose that intimacy when COVID hit. But I knew that we could either collapse on ourselves like a dying star or embrace what was happening and shine through these tough times; we chose the latter,” she says. Right before the shutdown she preemptively brought her instructors in and they shot sixteen classes in one weekend. These “banked” film classes were distributed to students on the first day of the quarantine “without missing a beat,” to borrow a term from the world of dance.

What Nadia feared might diminish the community at Impulse ironically expanded it. Not only did it preserve the current culture for Impulse dance students, it widened the circle to include former students living out of state, guest choreographers, and those housebound for health reasons long before the COVID-19 pandemic. While virtual dance classes had never been the plan for Impulse, all arts-based businesses are used to operating under the imperative that “the show must go on” and adapting creatively to circumstances. 

Impulse hasn’t just adapted as a business, they’ve risen up to amplify diverse voices in the Fort Collins dance community at a time when that is needed around the world. Current Miss Gay Pride of All Colorado, Mo Wells, who performs drag as Monae Royalz, is an instructor and artist with Impulse Dance and the studio has recently provided a platform and created a short film telling a story of dance, drag, and growing up black and queer in Colorado.

Impulse dance and fitness classes are open to all adults, affordable rates, lots of variety of styles and anyone can sign up for their classes virtually or in person. Check them out at —>

This article is part of a series of highlights about our Fort Collins artists and creatives making a difference during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. Thank you for supporting local artists, musicians, creative small businesses and Downtown Fort Collins!

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