Fresh Space showcases in-progress works choreographed by alumni, faculty and students. Most pieces are snippets of larger works, only a few minutes long. The first formal performance of the year will be the Senior Dance Concert, Dec. 8-9 in Kelsey Theater.
The informal atmosphere allowed audience members to come and go between pieces, as dancers joined the audience while not performing. Students used the performance as an afternoon study break, and families with small children stayed as long as attention spans lasted.
Minimalist cubist choreography by Jake Fitzpatrick 07 began the performance. Fitzpatrick, a music major, used the ideas of gradual, nearly imperceptible change and disconnected layering to build his piece.
Julia Langenberg 06 and Hannah Swanson 08 performed Circles, a brief piece based on class work they had done by building bodily movements that started with choreography of the hands.
Other pieces were less formal and theoretical. First-year students Ananya Mukhopadhyay and Kelly Laures choreographed and performed a piece to a party remix of a song from a Bollywood film. Dressed in bright pink and bright blue with matching shawls, the dancers pulsed to the insistent beat while integrating the hand movements characteristic of Indian dance.
The next piece skipped across hemispheres with an Argentine tango choreographed by Rachel Kronsberg 02 and Nate Martin 01, now dance instructors at the dance studio Arthur Murray Minneapolis. Six couples, women in swirling red dresses and men all in black, circled the dance floor. Martin described the tango form as a social dance that became a dance where the man is very aggressive and dominant and the woman is aloof.
Ting Ting Yang 09, dressed in black pants, a white button-up shirt and a tie, followed with an improvised tap dance to Chattanooga Choo Choo. She kept her composure, even as a stagehand had to readjust her flooring a few times when the two pieces of flooring drifted apart under the pressure of Yangs steps.
The following Nepalese dance was a recreation from a videotape of choreography former Veslica dancers created for International Night in 2002. Veselica dancers are learning the piece for their spring performance, which will have an Asian dance focus.
Fresh Space included several duet pieces as part of a choreography class. The students built pieces based on touch, either pushing together or pulling apart. The most evocative of the three duets was Mechanism by Kathryn Ernst 06 and Hannah Swanson 08.
The music pulsed and chimed while the dancers moved in sequence, their movements causally linked like cogs in a machine. Their business casual dress, black pants and pinstriped button-up shirts, also gave the impression of the dancers as possibly inessential parts of a bigger whole.
The afternoon had only one piece showcasing a faculty member.
The way this piece came about was sort of by accident, said Assistant Professor of Dance Heather Klopchin of her Duet for One, dedicated to her grandmother. She put on a song by the Irish singer Niamh Parsons and just started moving, she said, creating a long solo phrase.
Klopchins flowing, shimmering white pants complemented her fluid movements, and she mirrored the wonder at the natural world that the songs lyrics evoked.
Klopchins contemplative choreography was followed by the upbeat hip-hop of a bunch of people who like to dance, according to Irene Mineoi 07. The nine-woman group, made up of international and American students, gathers on Saturday mornings to put together choreography informally.
Dressed in jeans with simple black T-shirts and tank tops, the fun the dancers were having was evident in their confident and sassy body movements and facial expressions.
Inevitable memory slips and prop malfunctions could not derail the fun of the afternoon, as St. Olaf dance enthusiasts came together to prove the vibrancy and love of movement that finds a home in the dance department.