Karen Castleman’s choreographic and performance work spans more than two decades and includes work with companies such as Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Rubberbandance Group and MOMIX. Over the past five years her work has involved engagements and collaborations with some incredible organizational partners in the high south and beyond, from more classical commissioned works of contemporary ballet, Red Rover for Tulsa Ballet II, and Late Summer Cycle for NWA Ballet Theatre, to abstract creations for engagements at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and The Momentary. Both within the gallery and outdoors, in sight specific conversations with sculptural works of art, Castleman’s work stretches across the boundaries of contemporary concert dance genres.
Her work has been seen in collaborative projects with her artist/husband, Dayton Castleman, as they explored the challenges of space, work and family during the pandemic in Panemdemic, a dance work for film for OZCast, a project of CACHE, as well as with musician Fernando Valencia in Collision: When Visions Combine, a project by The Momentary and CACHE, bringing artists of different disciplines into conversation for a showcase of collaborative experimentation. In 2019, Castleman joined a national ensemble of performers in Florida, for an historical look at the story of American Modern Dance in a multimedia narrative and dance presentation, directed by Brett Perry, for the Venetian Arts Society, honoring ballet great, Edward Villella, in which she performed work by Isadora Duncan and original pieces inspired by Loie Fuller, Doris Humphrey and other modern dance pioneers.
Castleman was honored to be in the first cohort awarded by the Mid-America Art Alliance and Walton Family Foundation’s Artists 360 grant program. In 2021, Castleman received a research grant from the Walton Family Foundation for the purpose of mapping the existing dance and movement ecosystem in NW Arkansas, connecting with national organizations to investigate potential organizational models for elevating and filling gaps identified by the research. This research, which included a survey disseminated by 20 diverse community partner organizations, identified an eager and curious dance audience with little familiarity of the dance offerings available in the region outside of classical ballet.
A pilot program of the research project, Castleman introduced DanceChance NWA, a choreography focussed performance series featuring local choreographers and a unique response process giving useful feedback to choreographers and audiences to further understanding and fluency around the craft of making dances. Designed by Julie Nakagawa, Artistic Director of DanceWorks Chicago, DanceChance NWA was adapted and directed in NW Arkansas by Castleman. DanceChance NWA received tremendous community support, selling out 175 free registrations when presented in its second iteration at partner institution The Momentary in Bentonville, AR. Over five months, a total of 10 local choreographers received stage time and audience feedback on their creative work and over 45 local dancers were featured in dance works of a variety of genres.
Castleman founded The Movement Hub in 2022 with Michelle T. Summers to present contemporary dance work and provide education opportunities to further understanding of dance as an art form in this region with limited access to professional dance opportunities.