Artifact Dance Project is a contemporary dance company founded in 2009 and based in Tucson, Arizona. Ashley Bowman and Claire Hancock alongside musicians Ben Nisbet and Carla Ecker founded the company based on the tradition of collaboration between dance and music. Now directed by Ashley and Claire, Artifact is known for presenting narrative works with music as the driving source of inspiration. As Kathleen Allen, arts writer and reviewer for the Arizona Daily Star stated in 2016, “It’s contemporary dance. It’s theater. It’s a concert. And it’s simply astounding.”
A Symbiotic Relationship
As Artistic Directors and choreographers, Ashley and Claire form the strongest collaboration of all through their common passion for making narrative works. They formed a symbiotic working relationship in their masters’ theses at the University of Arizona School of Dance in 2007. In the spring of 2009 they premiered a collaborative thesis concert titled, “Artifact Dance Project” based on the idea that “art” exists “if” you “act” upon your ideas to create it. This name was inspired by the book Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland; a recommended read by mentor and Professor Douglas Nielsen. Ashley and Claire presented a full-length concert of their creative efforts which included world premieres in dance, music and film. The audience was positively overwhelmed by the innovation and fusion of art forms and whispers of wanting a company directed by the two women immediately spread in response.
From Master of Fine Arts to Non-Profit
In the Fall of 2009, Artifact Dance Project transformed from a thesis to a professional company and non-profit organization. Ashley, Claire and Ben cultivated new and exciting collaborations with musicians, composers, actors, visual artists and organizations. Ben Nisbet served as the company’s primary music director from 2009-2015. With a degree from the prestigious Oberlin Conservatory, he brought new music to the foreground of Artifact in addition to sophisticated classical works and monumental collaborations with local musically-based organizations. The company’s relationship between dance and music continues to thrive and is the core of our mission.
Fusion of Movement and Drama
Artistic Directors, Ashley Bowman and Claire Hancock come from diverse backgrounds of training and performance in ballet, modern, jazz and contemporary repertoire. Prior to founding Artifact Dance Project, they have had the privilege to be cast in work requiring a multilayered approach of strong technique and acting throughout their careers. They have danced for professional companies and hold multiple degrees in dance from world-class institutions including the University of Arizona School of Dance in Tucson, Arizona and the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London. Ashley and Claire opened a professional studio in downtown Tucson that focused on adult training for beginning to advanced dancers. Over the course of 4 years, they cultivated a successful and comprehensive program of study based in ballet, modern and contemporary dance. That program recently ended but their methods of training continue. To dance with Artifact, artists must possess a forward-thinking approach to the rehearsal process in addition to advanced technical skills. Artifact dancers have equal talents as actors and through the coaching of Ashley and Claire, fuse those elements together creating a seamless and innovative style that the company is known for.
Community and Collaboration
Artifact Dance Project takes pride in calling Tucson, Arizona our home. The founding members of the company, (Ashley Bowman, Claire Hancock and Ben Nisbet) grew up in Tucson and despite many travels, studies and journeys elsewhere, they returned. Upon their return, they received their Master’s degrees from the University of Arizona from the School of Dance and the Fred Fox School of Music. Their degree work established important relationships with local organizations and those relationships continue with the professional company. Tucson’s thriving arts community consists of world-class talent and innovation. Artifact has worked with many local organizations over the past 9 years including The Arizona Choir, Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation, Tucson Girls Chorus, True Concord Voices & Orchestra and St. Andrew’s Bach Society to name a few. We continue to present collaborations with local bands, visual artists, filmmakers, mimes, actors, composers and musicians.
A World Tour
Artifact Dance Project was invited by the Dalian Yilong Performance Co. Ltd., to present The Great American Dance Tour, a retrospective of American dance and music from the 1920’s to present. This concert featuring 28 dancers, 13 musicians, and 5 crew members, toured fifteen cities in China during the summer of 2011 and returned in 2012 with revised repertoire and new dancers and musicians for an additional 15 city tour. Ashley and Claire created the concept and choreographed and costumed the show. Ben Nisbet programmed the music and coordinated the band, singers and charts. Musician and liaison Dr. Larry Lang made this tour possible.