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ISSUE 119 VOL 13 PUBLISHED 3/10/2006

'Something' enchants

By Clare Kennedy
Arts Editor

Friday, March 10, 2006

On Friday and Saturday night, Assistant Professor of Dance Sherry Saterstrom and a team of dancers confronted the audience in the Wagner-Bungard studio of Dittmann Center with video cameras and the question, "What makes something something?"

That question loosely held together “Was it Something or Nothing?” a spectacle of improvised dance, music, lighting and multimedia.

“Something” was a complicated undertaking. There were eight dancers, including Denise Gagner '04 and Allison Lorenzen '04. Accompanying them was a five-piece band lead by Jeremy Anderson '05 that included a viola, cello, piano and two percussion sets.

The two groups, together with the technical crew, were all working from a bare structure; much was left to improvisation. Considering how many variables were involved, Saturday's show went exceedingly well.

The music, though striking in its own right, girded the movements on stage without becoming a distraction.

The efforts of the lighting and technical crew also helped to create atmosphere during dances that could have fallen flat without their deft adjustment of light.

Coordinating the changing relationship between the different elements of the show proved to be the biggest challenge and joy for many of the participants.

“I think it's important the way the musicians, dancers and tech crew interact,” cellist Saleha Erdmann ‘06 said. “The division of labor is different with improv. There's a lot more give and take.”

The dancers inhabited a stage that was initially bare except for a few pieces of long, white cloth intermittently draped from the ceiling, which served to distort video images and text projected onto the screen behind.

Often the dances alternated between two different ensembles, the trio consisting of Saterstrom, Lorenzen and Gagner, and a bigger group of younger dancers.

At times the dances were bogged down in uncertain twirling, and despite the improvised nature of the movements, the dancers' facial expressions often seemed affected.

However, there were many moments of visual bliss, when everything worked to eye-popping effect.

There was more variation and energy when the bigger group performed. But the best part of the night was a collaborative moment between Saterstrom, Anderson and Gagnes. The company brought out a sheet of plywood and three chairs, a bongo and cymbal.

Together, under a single spotlight, they tap danced, beat on their bodies and the instruments creating complex rhythms. When the spotlight turned out, they danced thunderously in the dark.

Improvisation extended into the audience as well. Audience members were invited to participate frequently during the show. At the end, the program became a ballot and the audience was asked to indicate whether parts of the concert were “something” or “nothing.”

All in all, “Something” pleased the audience and thrilled the participants.

"It's a heightened way to perform, Saterstrom said. "When everything works it’s just so fabulous. Choreographed work can’t ever match that.

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