It’s that time of year. No, I’m not talking about Groundhog Day or Valentine’s Day. The Independent Dancemakers’ annual concert, happening this weekend in The Ark at Duke, is a precursor to spring in its own right. Comprised of dancer-choreographers Rebecca Hutchins, Mindy Cervi, Anne Griffiths and Laura Thomasson, this group’s makeup has changed subtly during its five years–but not much. This year, the dancemakers will present their individual works–some new, some reprised–in a collective showing, an interesting playoff involving the fruits of both working alone and supporting one’s peers.

Rebecca Hutchins, one of the group’s founders, will be dancing a piece by New York-based choreographer Sara Hooks titled “Some Caucasian Spirituals.” This piece was conceived in response to Helen Tamiris’ legendary “Negro Spirituals.” Hooks’ version touches on a lot of race-based issues. But the excerpt presented here is really just a stinging and hilarious send-up of Bible Belt muck–a dollop of Tammy Faye thrown in with Miss America and a choir director. Hutchins says that while her own choreography is movement-based, dancing Hooks’ work opened her up to moving in a new, more character-driven direction. “It allowed this sort of goofy side of me to come out that was really fun.”

Another great experiment, one still in progress but definitely worth seeing, is Mindy Cervi’s yet-untitled work–a duet for herself and her partner, Robert Spadacenta. The latter is not a dancer by trade, I’m sure he’d want you to know. But that’s what makes this project so dang interesting. The genesis of the piece was a conversation the pair had about Spadacenta wanting to dance. They moved into the studio shortly thereafter, first to do “lab work,” and finally to work out a performance. Cervi describes the piece as being “about us, about testing our physical strengths–not about pointed toes or high kicks.” Her other work on the bill, “Una Poquita,” is a trio set to Spanish music that details the intricate relationships between three dancers–power struggles and all. Though rhythms and clapping are at the center of this work, don’t expect flamenco or anything so prepackaged here.

Anne Griffiths, who has landed in our backyard following a career with the Jose Limon Company and the Maryland Ballet, will be performing two works. In “Dancing Woman,” a solo choreographed by Clay Taliaferro, Griffiths will breathe new life into a 20-year-old dance–one she describes as “quintessential Limon,” an expression of the late dance master’s female side. Set to music by Brahms that will be performed live by distinguished pianist Barbara Silber, it promises to be an unfettered, beautiful dance. Griffiths will also revive her own “Still Point,” a 5-year-old work set to Celtic music and inspired by T.S. Eliot’s descriptions of the fleeting moments of stillness and clarity amidst flux. Primarily spatial in its investigations, and utilizing Cunningham and Wigman influences, the piece will be danced by Griffiths herself as a dedication to her father.

Laura Thomasson will present a duet to a blues song titled “Don’t Ever Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down.” Very much a character piece, it details the relationship between two people who are trying hard to connect, but are constantly losing ground. Thomasson performed the beginning of this piece last fall, but it has changed in several ways during the intervening months, including new music and a new second dancer, Claire Horn. Thomasson has tried to keep the piece open and receptive. “I try to stay out of my way and create a piece that says what it needs to say,” she says. “I personally don’t feel like we’re in control of our choreography. It comes from a very deep place in us–our unconscious, perhaps.”

Not one of the formidable four, but a highly interesting fifth is guest choreographer Sara Smith, who will show an excerpt titled “Women in Air Transportation.” Based on Francesca Woodman’s photographs–and the myths surrounding her work and life–the piece plays with notions of stasis and movement as well as larger cultural questions like gender roles. Danced by Jaleea Price, Tiffany Rhynard, Susan Quinn and Smith herself, the piece is predominantly abstract, even as it wrestles with the paradox of Woodman. As Smith says, “Her photos were seen as these beautiful images of women in white, very neo-Victorian. But Woodman had very unladylike, aggressive ways of working and would break into warehouses to get her shots. So there’s this juxtaposition of the photos themselves and what went into making them.” EndBlock

Call 490-5541 for times and ticket information.