It's common for dance companies to be named for choreographers, such as Alvin Ailey and Martha Graham. But the Owen/Cox Dance Group takes things an additional step.
Founded in 2007, the Kansas City-based company reflects the vision of choreographer Jennifer Owen as well as her husband, composer Brad Cox. As its co-artistic directors, Owen says, they're as much concerned with music as with movement.
"Brad and I work very closely together in building pieces," she says. "There's a lot of give and take in our creative process. Usually it starts with the music, but sometimes it does start with dance steps — or concepts about where we want to go with the piece."
Owen/Cox Dance Group will make its St. Louis debut next week during the Spring to Dance Festival. The ensemble will perform "I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream" at 6 p.m. May 28 in the Touhill Performing Arts Center's Lee Theater.
"This is the first time we'll be traveling out of the Kansas City area to perform," says Owen, who also is a dancer with the company. "So we're very excited."
"I Scream, You Scream" was inspired by sounds that Owen and Cox heard wafting from an ice cream truck in their neighborhood.
"The truck driver has a bell that he rings, and he's always changing up the rhythms that he plays," Owen says. "(Cox) remembered the rhythm and wanted to base a piece on it."
"I Scream, You Scream," she says, blends "a really fun piece of music" with movements that evoke childhood play such as hopscotch and tag.
Owen describes her choreographic approach as "based on classical vocabulary, but with a contemporary twist."
The Owen/Cox Dance Group isn't the first company to blend the sensibilities of a choreographer and a composer, she says: "(Choreographer) Merce Cunningham and (composer) John Cage were creative collaborators throughout most of their lives — and they were also life partners."
A Seattle native, Owen has been dancing since she was 4 years old.
"My parents took me to 'The Nutcracker,' and I just fell in love with it," she says. "I knew right then and there that I wanted to be doing what the dancers were doing."
Her dance background includes performing with the Russian State Ballet and Kansas City Ballet.
Unquestionably, the Spring to Dance gig will help raise the profile of the company, which is looking ahead to its fifth season.
"Things are going more quickly than we'd anticipated, in terms of getting recognized," Owen says.