KT Huckabee could not have dreamed what she was setting in motion when she accepted a position in 1998 to head up the Penn State Altoona dance program.
As she taught courses in dance education and directed both the Integrative Arts program and the dance studies minor, Huckabee wanted to spread the beauty and expression of dance into the community. She decided to form a professional dance company comprised of dancers from Penn State Altoona and the public. She wanted the company to be heavily collaborative with local composers, musicians, poets, and visual and theatre artists. Allied Motion was formed, and over the next 10 years, Huckabee developed a repertory of dances ranging from comedic to serious inspired by history, personal experiences, imagery, fantastical thoughts, and hopes. She also created the Children’s Dance Theatre Workshop, a branch of Allied Motion for youth.
Caitlin Osborne joined Allied Motion in 2003, after a friend suggested that she seek out Huckabee as a teacher. She danced under Huckabee’s direction for several years, originating multiple roles and taking on responsibilities as the company’s grant writer and educational program coordinator. The experience was deeply formative for her. “When I joined, I was in my early 30s and had been out of the dance world for almost 15 years. I was so fortunate to find KT just as I was young enough to train hard but old enough to appreciate and understand a whole new set of choreographic methodologies.”
In 2005, Osborne joined the faculty of Penn State Altoona and, in partnership with Huckabee, redesigned and built up the dance program. In 2007, she founded Ivyside Dance Ensemble, the college’s student dance company. As she and Huckabee directed more attention to strengthening the dance program and the dance ensemble, focus on Allied Motion waned. Community dancers had difficulty committing the time needed to produce multiple concerts each year, and the pressure on Huckabee and Osborne to choreograph for both companies led to Allied Motion going on hiatus in the spring of 2008.
A decade later, Huckabee was choreographing a piece for Ivyside Dance Ensemble that brought together a diverse cast of alumni and current students. “Working with the alumni was a wonderful experience. The dancers had grown so much as human beings, dancers, performers, and creative artists, and their commitment to the work was humbling.”
Working with the group sparked her interest in reforming Allied Motion. She thought about the difficulty many of the alumni had in finding ways to continue dancing. “That really spurred us to rethink our commitment to those dancers.”
“We were absolutely floored by the amount of energy, enthusiasm, and professionalism the recent graduates brought to our concerts,” adds Osborne. “Not only did they show us how much they thirsted for the opportunity to dance, but they also set a high bar for the current students.”
Huckabee and Osborne were so pleased with the overall experience, that they wanted to keep the energy going. It wasn’t hard to figure out how. With more time now to dedicate to it, the pair decided to reform Allied Motion, shifting its mission to one of inclusion: creating space for dancers who have less time and fewer opportunities to dance in their young adult years; reigniting the arts in education programs; and building community through movement.
The company includes many of the dancers Huckabee and Osborne trained at Penn State Altoona along with current students and community members.
Ana Rossi Lanzendorfer was a member of Ivyside Dance Ensemble for three years during her time at Penn State Altoona. When Osborne reached out to her about joining the revamped Allied Motion, she was excited about getting back into the studio with her mentors. As an instructor at a local studio, Rossi Lanzendorfer has been working behind the scenes of dance for 14 years and hadn’t performed for about nine. “I am very comfortable as a choreographer and dance educator, but there is always a little bit missing when you’ve ‘aged out’ of a higher level of dancing. Allied Motion allows us to participate in a way that works with our daily lives.”
Huckabee and Osborne wasted no time putting Allied Motion in motion. Members rehearsed and performed a mixed alumni/student concert at the Central PA Theatre and Dance Fest in both 2018 and 2019. In summer 2019, they organized and held Day of Dance, an event to broaden dance perspectives for students in local studios. Huckabee began working with ArtsAltoona to bring back the Children’s Dance Theatre Workshop. On top of that, there were rehearsals for the September 2019 relaunch concert, Back at Last, the first full-length Allied Motion concert in a decade.
Huckabee, Osborne, and Allied Motion choreographer emerita Renita Romasco created Back at Last featuring new and repertory pieces performed by current students and alumni of Penn State Altoona’s dance program, plus faculty, staff, and invited guests.
Romasco, who worked with the company from 1996 to 2007, was excited to be invited back for the relaunch. “This experience was a choreographer’s dream! The dancers are intelligent, hard-working, and so passionate about dance that it made it a true joy to be in the studio. I loved being a part of the energy and artistry KT and Caitlin foster in their students and alumni.”
Huckabee has no plans to slow down. She wants to identify more performance venues in the community and take performances, workshops, and panel discussions to the Commonwealth campuses as the company develops new work. Further, she wants to use Allied Motion to help increase Ivyside Dance Ensemble’s visibility across the University. “My hope is that together, Allied Motion and Penn State Altoona can make a true impact on how dance is perceived, accessed, and understood in this area. It will be a lot of hard work, but we have a great team with a lot of energy ready to dance every step of the way.”
“Dance is a universal language that supersedes differences. Allied Motion is committed to bringing children, teens, and adults together to experience the power of dance. It’s a wonderful way to show that Penn State Altoona is a place for everyone.”
Romasco is confident that Allied Motion will be a successful company and education program. “Dance is a universal language that supersedes differences. Allied Motion is committed to bringing children, teens, and adults together to experience the power of dance. It’s a wonderful way to show that Penn State Altoona is a place for everyone.”
Rossi Lanzendorfer says Allied Motion will help her improve as a teacher and dancer, but the biggest reason she plans to continue with the company is that commitment to the community. “We offer free and inexpensive opportunities to bring people of all ages and abilities together for the sake of the art we share. That’s really important to me.”
“Our message is ‘you can dance,’” says Obsorne. “We want to break down barriers, be they economic, social, or psychological. Don’t have the money? You can dance. Don’t have the ‘right body’? You can dance. Too old, awkward, or shy? You can dance! Our mission statement is clear: to build community through the power of movement. I hope that we can live and grow in that mission.”
Photos by Gary Baranec.