SCHENECTADY -- Professional dancers may have a short shelf life, but Laurie Zabele Cawley doesn't think it has to be that way.
"We're a multigenerational dance company redefining what a dance artist might look like," said Cawley, who founded the Loose Change Dance Collective in 2013. "There's a marginalization of dancers as they get older, just at the time they are really becoming artists. Our idea was to put these women together, women between 15 and 60 plus, and let them challenge what a dancer really looks like."
Cawley's troupe will be at the GE Theatre in Proctors at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday to present "SHE SAID," an evening of contemporary dance. They will be accompanied by violinist Ann Marie Schwartz of the Musicians of Ma'alwyck and video artist Jessalyn Meehan.
"SHE SAID" began as a compilation of interviews collected through social media from women across the country.
"We started about two years ago sending out questionnaires on social media asking women to answer 10 questions," said Cawley. "We got responses from women of all ages, and their responses were truly more than I could have imagined. They were funny, they were heart-breaking. The amount of vulnerability they had and how they were willing to express it was profound."
A native of Oneida in central New York and currently a resident of Ballston Lake, Cawley spent much of her professional life working as a dancer and instructor in the Detroit area before moving to the Capital Region 18 years ago. Her dance troupe has performed at the National Museum of Dance in Saratoga Springs, Union College, Siena College and the Albany Center Gallery. They are making their second appearance at Proctors, and have also performed at the Rochester Fringe Festival, the Brooklyn Playhouse and the NYC Dance Arts Festival.
"I have 15 women in the company, and we will be joined by 13 women from the community," said Cawley, referring to the Proctors performance. "Some of them are learning for the first time, and we have a woman who is over 80 in the class. We have Union students, Skidmore students, faculty members from Skidmore. This will be the first time we're incorporating the film and spoken word into our performance. Speaking is something dancers usually don't have the opportunity to do."
It took Cawley a while to come up with the name of her group.
"Titles are difficult for me, but I picked 'Loose Change' because it's something that's always in your pocket but not really valued," she explained. "Older dancers have to deal with that. But when you put all that loose change into a collective, it works as well as a shiny new dollar."
Cawley holds rehearsals at various places, including Union College. She said her dancers come from various walks of life. Some have professional experience with major companies like Martha Graham and Eisenhower Dance, and others have danced in college. They continue to take classes, however, while working as engineers, guidance counselors and college professors to name a just a few professions.
"The intention of this company is to have a diverse collection of artists with which to explore," said Cawley. "Offering an outlet for these artists to work while encouraging growth and depth in our artistry is very important to me."
The Friday and Saturday performances at Proctors are sponsored by The FIeld as well as a grant from the Dance Alliance and Soroptimist International of Saratoga County.
WHAT: A dance performance by the Loose Change Dance Collective
WHERE: GE Theatre at Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
HOW MUCH: $18
MORE INFO: www.proctors.org or www.loosechangedancecollective.com