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ISSUE 118 VOL 20 PUBLISHED 5/13/2005

Companydance springs to life

By Carolyn Albert
Contributing Writer


Friday, May 13, 2005

Last weekend St. Olaf’s modern dance group, Companydance, put on an hour and a half program in Kelsey Theater. The annual spring concert featured diversely themed works by students, faculty and outside contributors.

The show opened with the dark, intense piece “Between Strangers” by associate professor of dance Janice Roberts. The work explores “how we often don't see others for who they are, and how life is so fast that we get lost inside of it,” Roberts said. Dancers seemed both lost and hidden as they moved in and out of shadows in the dim lighting, beginning the piece with a very internal focus. Eventually, the dancers began to move together in unison with movements that conveyed deeply personal, yet universal struggles to relate to the world.

“Tarantella” by Jake Fitzpatrick ’07 was a narrative work that used a very basic and primal movement vocabulary to create what Fitzpatrick called “an atmosphere of nature and unsafety.” The dance related the story of a woman bit by a spider and the ensuing battle against the heartlessness of nature, which eventually triumphs in her death.

A stark contrast to this dark intensity was provided by “Voicing.” The piece explored, through a recorded sound score, the voicescapes in nature and in daily life at St. Olaf. Dancers of the Improvisation Ensemble entered, moving through the audience and asking, “Are you listening? Can you hear me?” On stage, their brightly colored costumes and the towering sculptures of Lewis Colburn ’05 contributed to a chaotic visual exploration of hearing and listening.

The first half of the program closed with a captivating solo, “Excerpt from the Deep Field,” performed by assistant professor of dance Heather Klopchin. Klopchin’s clarity of focus drew the audience into the physical intensity of the piece, which was made possible by a St. Olaf Summer Grant for Scholarly and Artistic Activity. The movement was a fluid combination of ethnic and modern dance idioms, which Klopchin blended artfully through precise attention to the minute movements of her fingers and feet as well as her arms and legs.

The program’s second half opened with another piece about relationships and identity, this time created by guest artist KT Niehoff. In “conceal | reveal,” stark white side lighting and simple corporate costumes, as well as the dancers’ serious expressions, contributed to a cold and distant tone. The acrobatic partner work was performed without emotion, as if to reflect the contrivance of emotionally shallow personal interactions.

Niehoff’s intensive rehearsal session with the cast of the piece in early March set the groundwork for this performance, which was honed in further rehearsal under Klopchin’s direction. Niehoff’s Seattle company, Lingo dancetheater, will be incorporating the choreography set on St. Olaf’s dancers into the larger work "Relatively Real," premiering at "On the Boards" in Seattle this week.

Following "conceal|reveal," alumna Kate Bronson ’04 presented “You Are … ” Her piece also addressed contrived identities in modern culture. In this case, the four dancers represented different female caricatures – the strong independent woman, the floozy, the whore and the innocent young woman searching for her place. Emphasizing the ludicrous clichés of femininity, Bronson elevated the struggle of the innocent woman, danced by Brittany Shrimpton ’07, to emotional and physical exhaustion from being pushed and pulled by the expectations of society.

Featured senior dance major Emily Wiedenhoeft performed “Dawn,” a self-choreographed solo. Her sister Holly Wiedenhoeft ’08 accompanied her on viola with “Concerto #1” by J.B. Accolay. The playful rapport between sisters ended when Emily finally snatched Holly’s bow; Holly finished the last notes of the song with defiant pizzicato as the spotlight illuminating the duo winked out.

In a complete shift of genre, the concert closed with “The Fall of the House of Usher,” a jazz work choreographed by Klopchin. The piece “was able to combine certain aspects of choreography distinct to modern dance with jazz technique which resulted in a unique and energized piece,” performer Angie Weber ’07 said. This athletic work elevated jazz dance beyond its common music video image to integrate it into the artistry of the highly eclectic and engaging Companydance Spring Concert 2005.





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