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10 Hairy Legs Dance in a Company’s Digital Archive

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The following is a guest post from Music Division Archivist Dr. Stephanie Akau.

Randy James, choreographer and professor of dance at Rutgers University, founded the all-male 10 Hairy Legs dance company in 2012. As artistic director, one of James’s main goals was to expand and elevate the role of the male dancer, who historically has functioned as support for the female dancer in coed productions. In addition to their numerous performances and tours, the company provided free dance education workshops to students in the New York and New Jersey area. The company dissolved in December 2020 as a result of financial hardship brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The company’s records became the Music Division’s first entirely born-digital collection. The collection includes digital files of performance videos, photographs from marketing shoots, and oral histories with company administrators and dancers.

Over the course of eight years, 10 Hairy Legs commissioned seventeen new choreographed works, including some with original scores. Since it is impossible to discuss all of them in a single blog post, I want to highlight three.

Five men, legs wide in semi-squat position, hands inbetween legs with fingers spread, mouths open.
Rachel Neville, photographer. Together We Stand, circa 2013. Digital ID: MUS_2021_048_013, 10 Hairy Legs Dance Company Archive, Music Division.

Manuel Vignoulle choreographed Together We Stand, which features five dancers. The commission included an original score, Together, composed by Vignoulle. Vignouelle created the dance for the 10 Hairy Legs company premiere at Raritan Valley Community College in New Jersey in 2012. The company also presented Together We Stand on its tour of South Africa in 2016. The piece represents the interconnectedness of individuals—how success and failure of one impacts the whole group.

Three men seated on the ground, two men standing one slightly in front of the other.
Steven Trumon Gray, photographer. It Only Happens Once…, circa 2013-2014. Digital ID: MUS_2021_048_013, 10 Hairy Legs Dance Company Archive, Music Division.

Tiffany Mills based It Only Happens Once … Yesterday and Tomorrow on a recurring dream. Pieces of choreography and repetitive movements loop back on themselves as if the dreamer is attempting to change the outcome as the work unfolds. It Only Happens Once … premiered at Raritan Valley Community College in November 2013. Since the premiere, Mills has set the work on different ensembles, the dance changing each time to fit the dancers.

Man facing camera balenced on left toe and right hand, mid-movement.
Steven Delas Heras, photographer. Trouble Will Find Me, 2015. Digital ID: MUS_2021_048_013, 10 Hairy Legs Dance Company Archive, Music Division.

Doug Elkins’s choreography for his work Trouble Will Find Me combined salsa, Indian dance, Spanish gestures, and capoeira with hip-hop influences for performance in a proscenium theater. The music was “Tumhe Dillagi Bhul Jani Padegi,” a Qawwāli, or Sufi devotional song, by Pakistani musician Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. The work premiered in March 2014 as part of the Jersey Moves! Festival of Dance. In November 2019, Trouble Will Find Me got a new life as part of the Morris Museum’s Live Arts series. Rather than performing the work on a stage, the dancers performed in the museum’s contemporary art exhibits. Groups of museum visitors became passageways through which the dancers moved. This time, the new soundtrack included pop songs. The dancing featured soloists instead of the ensemble dancing of the original work. Dance critic Robert Johnson wrote of the interactive, high-energy event, “No one can keep the audience in their seats, once the dancing starts. Within moments, people are on their feet, traipsing through a gallery filled with dazzling images by graffiti artists and following the dancers as they saunter, swing and dodge.”[1]

Performance videos and the company records for 10 Hairy Legs are now are available to view onsite in the Library of Congress Performing Arts Reading Room. Because the collection is digital, researchers should use the Digital ID to request materials. The 10 Hairy Legs Dance Company Archive finding aid is now available, and the company’s website is included in the Library’s Web Archive.

[1] Robert Johnson. “Dancers Move through Morris Museum in ‘Trouble Will Find Me: Remixed.’ ” NJ Arts. November 22, 2019.

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