Gamblin and Friends to celebrate collaboration

poster for Sarah Gamblin and Friends Dance

May 16, 2023 DENTON The history of collaboration between parent and offspring is voluminous.

Duos like Henry and Jane Fonda, Beyoncé and Blue Ivey, Phil and Lily Collins, and Martin and Charlie Sheen abound in film and music. Parents frequently coach their children in pro sports, and in 1990 father and son Ken Griffey Sr. and Jr. played together in major league baseball.

But there are far fewer partnerships between children and both parents. Legendary stage entertainer George M. Cohan performed as a child in vaudeville with his parents, and Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann acted in film with their daughters.

Add to that short list Texas Woman's University dance professor Sarah Gamblin, who will perform to music composed and recorded by her 14-year-old son Gus and his father, Paul Slavens.

"Sarah Gamblin and Friends Dance" will take place Saturday, May 20, at 7 p.m. in the Dance-Gymnastics Laboratory Building's studio theatre (DGL 208). Tickets are $7 and available online.

The evening will feature two works.

"The Space Between Us" is about the "irrepressible impulse to go out dancing that has arisen in many of us since the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown," Gamblin said. It will feature the music composed by Gus Gamblin and Slavens. The cast of dancers includes students Mya Evans, Holly Griffin, Allen LaPoint, Ilse Mascorro, Sumi Srikanth, Gracie Sedach and Makayla Rosenberger.

"It's a tribute to all of us in that post-pandemic time when people were just coming out of their homes and starting to socialize again," Gamblin said. "I discovered a small group in Denton, people that would have house parties and just dance all night long because it had been so long since anyone had gone out dancing. That became a point of research for me in terms of movement and connectedness and being together, hanging out, being together and dancing."

Gus Gamblin has grown up surrounded by creativity. In addition to his mother's dance, his father is a composer, plays piano and keyboards and has a radio show on KXT 91.7 FM in Dallas.

"It's his first creative collaboration process," Gamblin said of Gus. "He and Paul collaborated. We all collaborated."

Although Gus is only 14, he already has a music-streaming channel on SoundCloud.

"He very much identifies as a musician," Gamblin said.

And how does he feel about composing music for his mother to dance to?

"Well, he is 14," Gamblin said. "It's difficult to relax and enjoy it."

"The Space Between Us" will be followed by “Quintet,” an improvisational work with music by Miguel Espinal, Ernesto Montiel and Sarah Ruth. Gamblin will be joined in dance by her fellow TWU dance professor, Rosemary Candelario. Gamblin described Quintet as "an extended improvisation that builds a thick, all-consuming space of movement and sound."

An improvisational piece presents different challenges, but the ensemble will look to their respective experiences.

"If we were 20, we would have different challenges with it than now that we're in our 50s," Gamblin said. "The fact that the skill of listening and working together in improvisational context is something that just naturally gets better as you gain more experience. Whereas if we were younger people, the risk would be that we would create something that had no form, no structure, and was really irritating and not fun. But because we actually have all this experience, I'm confident that it's going to be very cohesive, very rich. You might have moments of disorientation, but that's part of the aesthetic of this group of people is to have disorientation and challenge within a piece. And it will end when you're ready for it to end, because sometimes improvisations can go on too long."

"Quintet" has evolved out the performers working together at various venues in the area, including Denton's Rubber Gloves and Dallas' Wild Detectives (a combination bookstore and bar in Oak Cliff) in something called Improv Lotto.

"They invite a bunch of musicians and dancers who like to improvise. They put everybody's name in a hat and then they draw out different names to make different groupings, then you spontaneously get up on stage and perform."

However, those venues are music-oriented with limited space. This time the dancers have home-floor advantage.

"As a dancer performing at Rubber Gloves, it's really fun because the music is amazing, but there's no dance space," Gamblin said. "You stand next to the band or in front of the stage. It all works out great because they're wonderful people who really know how to listen. The musicians are incredibly supportive. It's wonderful, but it's not a dedicated dance space. So now we're bringing the musicians into the dance space to do our show."

Mostly, it feels good to be dancing in public again.

"So much activity got squashed for so long, it's been actually really helpful for me and my development and the student development to have an opportunity to create something to be seen," Gamblin said. "We're grateful to the institution for providing that support."

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Page last updated 12:49 PM, June 7, 2023