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Sky’s The Limit
Vertical dance company defies gravity and expectations
By Jessica Laskey
A woman dangles from the ceiling, her skirt a giant parachute. Waves of fabric undulate through the room.
Two figures in snorkeling masks dance in tandem, suspended as though swimming in mid-air.
This is not an oceanic fever dream. It’s the work of Tony Nguyen and his company TwoPoint4 Dance Theater. The company is an innovative arts group that specializes in “vertical dance,” a medium that combines modern dance with rock climbing gear to create a unique experience.
The visuals described here are from “Fragmented Memories,” an immersive performance piece Nguyen and his company members created and performed in November 2019. They updated the work and performed it again in May 2022.
The production was staged at the Auditorium at CLARA (E. Claire Raley Studios for the Performing Arts) in Midtown, TwoPoint4’s artistic home. The group was founded 10 years ago in a 24 Hour Fitness workout room, hence the play on “24” in the name. Nguyen would love to have his own permanent space, but until then, CLARA is a perfect base.
This month, however, TwoPoint4 leaves CLARA for its most ambitious production yet. “Reimagined” premieres at the Hiram Johnson High School Theater in Tahoe Park on March 11. The performance features a revamped version of January’s 1980s-themed “Brick by Brick,” a new commission from choreographer Laja Field, and the 2015 audience favorite “Cracked.” The company returns to CLARA afterward for its 10th anniversary show.
“Most of our shows have been more intimate, but Hiram Johnson has 1,200 seats,” Nguyen says. “We plan to repel off the front of the building and dance in the skies as people enter, if it doesn’t rain. Inside, we’ll have a truss system built onstage that dancers will repel off of into the space. It’s very visceral. The dancers will be inches away from peoples’ faces.”
Nguyen founded TwoPoint4 in 2013. He participated in dance classes in elementary school but didn’t focus on the art form until college, when he studied every dance genre he could at American River College. He earned his bachelor’s degree in dance from Sacramento State.
“I’ve always been a creative person,” says Nguyen, who grew up in a “very poor family” in North Sacramento and now lives in East Sac with his family, including 1-year-old daughter Margot. “At the daycare facility I went to, they had art programs where we built things, destroyed things, created things. That had a huge impact on who I am as an adult. I want to make art whenever I can.”
That includes making art through a camera lens. Nguyen has been a full-time photographer since 2015, after working as an accountant. He mainly photographs dance, weddings and senior graduations, plus a handful of corporate clients.
Once Nguyen discovered vertical dance, he was hooked. He commuted to classes in the Bay Area and joined Oakland-based BANDALOOP, one of the genre’s innovators, on a world tour. He traveled for two years before bringing what he learned back to Sacramento.
“BANDALOOP is built on safety protocols and processes, so dancers are more inclined to take risks and do fearful things,” Nguyen says. “TwoPoint4 was originally ground-based and we did a lot of partnering work, but after coming back from BANDALOOP five years ago, I added vertical dance as an element. It’s like a drug.”
Nguyen brings his creativity to the classroom. Three TwoPoint4 instructors teach modern dance to every fifth grader in the Twin Rivers School District, culminating in a spring performance at Johnson High.
“We’ll have reached 2,200 students over the course of five months,” Nguyen says. “We teach dance, but our lessons are also about vulnerability, compassion, safety, empathy, values that are necessary for humanity.”
For tickets and more information, visit twopoint4dance.org.
Jessica Laskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.