Leymis Bolanos Wilmott didn't really know she was starting a dance company. She was a graduate student at Florida State University, and her specialty was contemporary dance and movement from the African diaspora. Her friend, Rachael Inman, had a background in ballet. When they started working together, someone said they should call their partnership Fuzion Dance Artists.
That was 10 years ago. Wilmott moved to Sarasota, and Fuzion grew into the Bradenton-Sarasota area's preeminent contemporary dance company.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Fuzion celebrated its birthday -- 10 years is very long time for a dance company to thrive in a mid-sized metropolitan area such as this -- and made a major announcement. It was changing its name.
It's the same company, but now it's called Sarasota Contemporary Dance.
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"I think Fuzion name was branded pretty well," Wilmott said. "But if you're going to change your name, the 10th anniversary is a good time to do it."
She cites some pretty good reasons for making the change. For one, although it wasn't a trendy term 10 years ago, "fusion" has become a descriptor for lots of things these days. It's almost a cliché.
Besides, she said, since the company doesn't have a space of its own -- it performs most regularly at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts and at the Black Box Theatre at New College -- a lot of people who knew the name Fuzion didn't know it was a dance company.
"People kept asking if Fuzion was a dance company or a dance studio or what," Wilmott said.
It was also tricky to pronounce. A lot of people just said "fusion," but it was really pronounced as three syllables, with the accent on the last one, which sounded like "own." And that pronunciation led some people to think it was a Latin dance company.
Sarasota Contemporary Dance is a clearer description of the company's style, and it also reflects a secondary goal.
"I always wanted
to create, but I never wanted to do it alone," Wilmott said. "If I did, I would have called it the Leymis Bolanos Wilmott Company or something. For me it's all about community."
There was no contemporary dance community in Sarasota 10 years ago, and thanks almost entirely to Fuzion there is one now.
Among the way the company has done that has been to train aspiring dancers, and to give dancers who wanted to become choreographers a chance to create new works. (It's not easy, in a lot of areas, for dancers to make that switch. In fact, in some cities it's all but impossible. It's a lot easier in West Central Florida, thanks to Sarasota Contemporary Dance and to Tampa's Moving Current, which gave Wilmott one of her first chances to choreograph on a professional stage.)
The company has been doing some really moving work for many years, but this year it's expanding its productions schedule, offering a five-concert subscription series for the first time.
The first has already happened. The next is coming up this week, Oct. 15-18 at New College. It's called "Close Up" and it's a collection of some of Wilmott's best work, including "Aftermath." That work has been produced around the country, including New York's Kennedy Center. Dance Magazine named Wilmott the best choreographer in the Southeast after that performance.
The company is also looking for its own space, and has a verbal contract for a space in a new building in downtown Sarasota.
But despite the name change, a new logo and a new website (sarasotacontemporarydance.com), Wilmott said fans of Fuzion should still be fans of Sarasota Contemporary Dance.
"The heart of the company, the vision of the of the company, remains the same," she said.