Bare Bait Dance is entering unknown territory in flying canoes in their season opener, "Here Be Dragons."
The two-act contemporary dance performance at Westside Theater explores the idea of unknown and uncharted territory while drawing inspiration from imagery of dragons on old maps.
"There is a bit more narrative to this show in general about how does it feel to leave home, go on a journey or step out of your comfort zone," said Joy French, Bare Bait Dance artistic director.
Like its name, "Here Be Dragons" is a fantastical piece that incorporates mythological and nautical motifs, drawing inspiration from European maps depicting dragons and sea monsters in uncharted waters.
"Here Be Dragons" will be performed Nov. 15, 16, 22 and 23 at 8 p.m., and Nov. 23 at 6 p.m.
French said she had been thinking about the title for a while and that she wanted to do a more "magical" play than she has in recent productions.
After creating the title, French worked with company members to explore the idea of "personal dragons" and brainstorm things they haven’t done on stage. The company looked at ways to push themselves out of their comfort zones "just like ship captains might go to areas they didn't know anything about to explore."
"I felt like that was inspiring to me to explore some unknown territory for Bare Bait," French said.
Katie Conrad, a dancer for the company, said she relates to her character as someone transitioning from college to life as an adult.
"My character is just going into this journey of the unknown and having the power to explore that, but not really knowing what that unknown is so it really hits the nail on the head," Conrad said.
Conrad said rehearsing for the production led her to think about the various ways people approach uncharted paths in life, which she said "can be overwhelming at times but also a really beautiful way to go through the world."
The production also draws inspiration from aerial rigging equipment at the venue, the West Side Theater, the rebranded aerial studio and theater space on Shakespeare Street formerly known as MASC Studio.
"When I realized that we would have two out of three of our productions there, it just made me daydream about how we could use the flying apparatus," French said.
French said the West Side Theater helped bring her dream of a flying canoe to life. She said she's unsure if the company will incorporate aerial elements into its April production, called "CXQ," which is also at the venue.
French said "CXQ" will be a three-part collaborative show that will bring guests such as Mollie Wolfe, a ballet dancer from Los Angeles. Bare Bait will also perform a few mini company pieces alongside screenings at a festival at the Roxy Theater in January.
French said she hopes that holding the performance at West Side Theater will help foster a "more robust professional performance scene in the community and not just on campus."
"Here Be Dragons" will feature Bare Bait Dance company members Conrad, Lizzie Archer, Kaitlin Kinsley, Tara McFarland and Jo Shontz, alongside apprentices Bella Campbell, Liana Dillon, Audrey Kurz and Grace Nolan.
French said the apprentices are part of a new program through the company that provides local high-schoolers from different studios around town with professional dance training, mentors, and career advice on everything from dance resumes to cover letters.