The Scorpius Tale

By Richard Schultz, October 2015 Issue.

Scorpius is a constellation of the zodiac that comprises many bright stars. Scorpius is also Latin for scorpion, a creature known the world over for its inexplicable ability to illuminate under just the right light.

Catwalk. Photo courtesy of Scorpius Dance Theatre.

Knowing this, it makes perfect sense that co-founders Lisa and David Starry would choose the name Scorpius to represent their troupe of stars that has been dazzling audiences from under the spotlight since 1999.

As one of the founders of Metropolitan Arts Institute – better known as Metro Arts, an independent, chartered college preparatory arts school in downtown Phoenix – Lisa saw an opportunity to bring a dance company in residency in 1997.

Metro Arts was very supportive of her idea and, two years later, Scorpius Dance Theatre was born.

Lisa and her husband, David, who was also the lead male dancer for more than 10 years, worked as a team to get the dance company off the ground – handling everything from choreography and video work to prop design and marketing themselves.

During Scorpius’ first year, Lisa met Nicole Olson who became the associate director, choreography assistant and the lead female role of the vampire queen in Lisa’s annual signature cult classic A Vampire Tale.

Then, in 2012, Gavin Sisson joined the team and is now one of Scorpius’ lead male dancers, as well as aerial artist and trainer. A key factor to Scorpius’ success and stability thus far, Lisa added, has been its residency at Metro Arts.

L.O.V.E. Photo courtesy of Scorpius Dance Theatre.

Transcending Dance

Since its inception, Scorpius has become known for its fascination with the supernatural as well as its savvy staging of dance, pop music and fashion. But, more importantly, it has established itself as a grassroots company that found its voice to survive economic hurdles as well as its own growing pains to become a vital and permanent part of the Valley’s arts landscape.

While the company has been categorized as contemporary dance, Scorpius defies description by presenting a unique combination of dance, theatre and aerial performing arts.

“I incorporate a variety of dance styles, including aerial, sexy burlesque and hip-hop, while featuring popular music and themes that are current and relevant,” Lisa said.

In addition to creating full-length “story” productions, Scorpius prides itself in its edgy and inspiring repertory works that further showcase the company’s artistry and ongoing quest to serve dynamic entertainment to its audiences.

“Scorpius often appeals to audience members who’ve never attended a dance production,” Lisa said. “Dance doesn’t have to be stuffy and serious! We encourage our audience members to laugh out loud and express their reactions to the performers”.

Additionally, Scorpius aims to engage dance aficionados and dance novices alike with its uniquely accessible and consistently captivating style of performance art.

Catwalk. Photo by Ed Flores.

2015-2016 Season

During a typical season, the dance company performs three to four shows, including A Vampire Tale, which will celebrate its 12th season this year from Oct. 1-10.

A Vampire Tale is the end result of Lisa’s fascination with vampires, which began as a 6-year-old watching “Dark Shadows,” a 1960s television soap opera, and then going to bed with a sheet wrapped around her neck to keep the vampires away.

This annual production, which was initially created as a new Halloween show, evolves each year to provide a fresh take on this cult classic for fans who have made awaiting the latest incarnation of an annual tradition.

The story follows a young woman who is drawn to the dark side and finds herself lured into an assorted band of bloodsuckers. Frightened, yet fascinated by their shadowy showmanship and seductive transactions, the girl struggles to avoid becoming part of their underworld when she becomes infatuated with the king vampire.

A Vampire Tale. Photo courtesy of Scorpius Dance Theatre.

A Vampire Tale has received national and international acclaim, including return performances to the Bram Stoker International Film Festival in Whitby, England. Additionally, Lisa said she hopes to create a full feature film to expand her choreography and the show’s characteristic darkness from the local stage to the big screen.

Back by popular demand, the original Catwalk returns to Phoenix Theatre Feb. 25-27. Fashion meets dance on the runway in this high-energy production. Set to a heart-thumping soundtrack, this original contemporary dance production fuses funky local fashions, sexy athleticism with Lisa’s distinct choreography. Scorpius dancers will strut their stuff in 18 different choreographic works plus fashion runway spoofs.

L.O.V.E, a brand new production, choreographed by Lisa and featuring live original music by Kristofer Hill, will close the season April 28-30. L.O.V.E explores the various meanings of the word and the people and things we express our love toward – from romantic partners and family to friends and strangers who touch us in some way, as well as the earth and the creatures who bring joy to many – and will take audiences on a journey of emotions.

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