NORWICH — Ten years ago, two local dancers with a passion for teaching and artistic expression brought big city culture to their small hometown. This year is the 10th anniversary of the Phoenix Project Dance, a professional dance company based in Norwich since 2004.
Phoenix Project Dance has grown from a few local dancers trying to get their name out there to a nonprofit professional dance company with a board of directors, sponsors and paid performers.
“When my sister and I started the company, we were just trying to survive. We made enough money for costumes and other things we needed to keep us going. We put everything back into the company,” said executive director and choreographer Mikey Perkins.
Perkins and his sister got the idea to start their own company when students they had trained left town to join professional companies. They wanted to start a company based out of their hometown and bring the talent local. At first they used their students as dancers for the company, but as they became more widely known, other dancers started to approach them.
“Now we are pulling dancers from all over the country to dance with us here in Norwich,” said Perkins. “Our dancers are from big cities but can't wait to come here. They think this town is like living in movie, and it's great having that kind of energy here in the community.”
The process for becoming a dancer at the company begins with an application and audition. If the dancer is accepted, they are put through an apprenticeship program. Dancers apply from all over North America; there are dancers from cities like New York City, Boston and Toronto.
“We have some paid dancers in the company. We put them through an apprenticeship first to make sure they are a good fit; it's a trial period. We want to find a place for them before they are hired,” said Perkins.