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ISSUE 118 VOL 7 PUBLISHED 11/5/2004

Message in full 'Swing'

By Danielle Daniel
Staff Writer

Friday, November 5, 2004

Last spring, Artist in Residence Anthony Roberts debuted his multimedia dance piece Swing a Club: facing cancer in honor of his brother Tom, who passed away on in early 2001. What initially began as Roberts own artistic process of healing has turned into a guide for the St. Olaf community to reflect on their own experiences with illness and loss, and open dialogue on the impact of cancer.

Encore performances of Companydances Swing a Club commence tonight and will continue through Nov. 6, each night at 7:30 p.m. in Dittmanns Studio One. Performances include a post-discussion about the show and the provision of educational resources from the St. Olaf Cancer Connection.

Roberts said that people do not have to be directly affected by cancer to be compelled toward thoughtful consideration of the universal message of his piece, which enlightens viewers about the processes of struggle, support and letting go.

We go through life and dont intentionally mean to take it for granted, Roberts said. This is an opportunity for us to say this is what matters to me and to honor that. Its about getting closer to your family and what you love and asking yourself how you are going to pass on that love to others.

Roberts recalled going to church after last springs performances of Swing a Club and receiving a surprising compliment from his minister prior to partaking in communion  a compliment that affirms the importance of paying tribute to loved ones by allowing their story to aid others in the healing process.

He said to me, I didnt have the words then to tell you how much this meant to me, and I do not have them now, but all I can say is that I was deeply moved, Roberts said, quoting the minister.

Such a positive and passionate response to Swing a Club is one of the reasons Roberts continues to share his story with the community while he constantly seeks nationwide touring opportunities for the students in Companydance.

Assistant Professor of dance Heather Klopchin, a performer alongside student dancers in Swing a Club, said the piece is accessible to everyone, partly because of the interdisciplinary fusion of movement, visual text and sound, created by Roberts himself. Roberts multimedia vision is brought to life by Companydance and faculty members Janice Roberts, associate professor and chairperson of the dance department (and Roberts wife), and Dona Werner Freeman, artist in residence in theatre.

I think what happens a lot in dance is that people think of it as fascinating or fun, but they cannot connect, and the message or meaning washes away and they dont get it, Freeman said. With this piece, theyll get it because it has such an emotional element and theres a way into the material for all types of learners  everyone can get something out of it.

Janice Roberts said Swing a Club has given her the unique opportunity to dance as an equal with students and to learn through her husbands creative journey.

I think this is a different way for people to look at the arts  not to just watch, but to participate in thinking of the loss of a loved one, Janice Roberts said. Its a way for us to be a closer knit community and to come together.

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