It’s a Long Way from Pittsburgh


The Murphy/Smith Dance Collective performing "Much More Than Bones" at the 2011 DUMBO Dance Festival

Jaime Erin Murphy, 26, and Renee Danielle Smith, 25, began The Murphy/Smith Dance Collective in January 2011 when they received the New Stage Artist Residency from the Kelly-Strahorn Theater in Pittsburgh, PA, for their piece “Much More Than Bones.” The group was honored when they were selected to perform their piece at the DUMBO Dance Festival just 9 months later.

T0 finance the trip to Brooklyn for their young troupe, the emerging choreographers created a website and Facebook page asking for donations. The Kelly-Strahorn Theater, a community arts theater,  provided space for a traditional fundraiser, which included a silent auction, a DJ set, and performances concluding with the excerpt of “Much More Than Bones” showcased at the 11th annual DUMBO Dance Festival. About sixty guests attended the fundraiser which raised $1800, enough to cover pay for the dancers and musicians for the DUMBO gig as well as the group’s transportation to Brooklyn.

More than 500 musicians, poets, dancers, studio artists and circus and performing artists entertained over 200,000 visitors throughout the 15th annual, three-day DUMBO Arts Festival, where the DUMBO Dance Festival took place. Food trucks from all over the city converged upon the police-barricaded art event, and artists from all over the world gathered to share their expression with guests.

The Murphy/Smith Dance Collective was one of over 100 performers and performance groups featured by the DUMBO Dance Festival at the John Ryan Theater. Murphy and Smith collaborated their evolving ideas about the body to choreograph “Much More Than Bones.” Murphy had just finished massage therapy school and was interested in the functional way the body works. Smith was inspired by poetry about how the body changes from birth to death.

“Much More Than Bones is simply about the human journey,” Smith says. “Our goal was to acknowledge the physical and figurative structures that support us through life.”

The modern contemporary dancers begin in an energetic spirit. As the piece progress, each dancer becomes noticeably less mobile and pained until he or she falls to the ground, assisted by the dancers still alive. During the second section of the piece, both the dancers and the musicians improvise.

“The movement was developed through several techniques including creative movement based games with the dancers, developing phrase work inspired by poetry, and several improvisation tools throughout the entire work,” Smith says.

Murphy and Smith perform “Much More Than Bones” together with three other Pittsburgh-area dancers: Alan Obuzor, Cassie Shafer and Laura Warren Warnock. The five dance to live music originally composed by Amy and Ian Green. The segment that appeared at the DUMBO Dance Festival was a condensed version of the full piece, which is about thirty minutes long.

“We hope the audience is left feeling reflective and as though they related to even the slightest moment, fragment, or concept throughout the piece,” Smith says.