On the Road, with the Band

Bowen McCauley Dance collaborates and tours with famed country punk-rock band, Jason and the Scorchers.

Bowen McCauley Dance in Victory Road

Rock bands go on tour. Dance companies go on tour. But it’s not often a rock band and dance company get together for a show at the Kennedy Center before heading out on the road together.

Victory Road is a collaborative project between contemporary dance company Bowen McCauley Dance (BMD) of Virginia and Jason and the Scorchers, a country punk-rock band credited by Rolling Stone with “rewriting the history of rock ’n’ roll in the South.” The full-length show uses songs from Jason and the Scorchers’ 30-year career, weaving a storyline inspired by the life and music of lead singer Jason Ringenberg.

Lucy Bowen McCauley, artistic director of BMD, has been a fan of the band for about 30 years but didn’t have a chance to see them in concert until three years ago. “It was the best concert of my life, and I’ve seen quite a few concerts,” she says, describing her younger self as a “ballerina with a rock habit.” “I’ve always loved their music and thought I could use it with my choreography. They tend to have a lot of upbeat, really danceable tunes with good words, and they are great musicians.”

Ringenberg wasn’t sure what to think when McCauley called him out of the blue two years ago with her collaboration idea. “To be quite frank, I thought it was some crazy lady, and I didn’t hold a lot of hope. But I was dead wrong on that,” he says. “This is such a huge honor for us. We’ve never done anything like this, so we’re over the moon about it and so thankful to make it happen.”

Jason and the Scorchers’ music is rooted in old Southern folk, Celtic melodies and first-wave punk rock, so it naturally lends itself to dancing. Ringenberg gave McCauley a storyline about a boy who leaves his hometown with a dream of becoming a rock star in the ’80s, and some song suggestions. During McCauley’s choreographic process, she talked through the final song selections and the show order with Ringenberg, so her nine dancers and the band could unite onstage to tell the Victory Road story.

“We had a trial run last February with one song, and when the dancers started dancing to the music, it brought tears to my eyes. It was so radical and so beautiful,” Ringenberg says. “I hope folks take away that such divergent worlds can coalesce and create art together.”

Victory Road premieres on April 10 and 11 at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Company members will perform alongside the band and then travel together through Virginia, then again later in the year through Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia and Alabama as part of BMD’s outreach programming. DT

For more: bmdc.org

Hannah Maria Hayes is a frequent contributor to Dance Teacher.

Photo by Jeff Malet, courtesy of Bowen McCauley Dance

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