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ISSUE 119 VOL 16 PUBLISHED 4/14/2006

Asian elegance

By Andrea Horbinski
Staff Writer

Friday, April 14, 2006

Last weekend, the Veselica dance troupe transformed Dittmann's Studio 1 into a small corner of Asia.

As part of Asia Weeks, Veselica's spring concert featured 16 dances from every part of Asia and a cane dance called "Tahtib" from Egypt.

The concert's program was made possible by a grant from the Freeman Foundation, which the College received in order to increase the teaching of Asian Studies across the curriculum.

Veselica artistic director Anne von Bibra recieved funding for a three-part project: an international dance class featuring Asian dances; a Veselica program featuring Asian dances; and to expand her own knowledge of Asian dance for incorporation into other classes.

For the last third of the project, von Bibra traveled to Japan and China with Professor Katherine Tegtmeyer Pak. She also worked with Asian dance groups in the Twin Cities and with Korean and Chinese dance teachers in Hawaii.

In between dances, maps and images from each country were projected onto a wall of the studio. The images, from Professor Karil Kucera's "Asia Takeout" online archive, covered the group's myriad costume changes, though on the first night there were still a few lags as the dancers dealt with outfit emergencies.

Opening Night kinks aside, Veselica put on a wonderful performance. Every member had visible enthusiasm and energy onstage, and the dancers always managed to look natural.

Many dances featured only women, but those with men as well were clear standouts, in particular a Pakistani fisherman's dance and a Nepalese folk number.

A crowd favorite was the Filipino "Tinikling," in which dancers Gizelle Chavez '07 and Jake Fitzpatrick '07 bounded over, between and around two wooden poles manipulated by two of their colleagues.

Although a bit too long, an Indian dance performed by Ananya Mukopadhay '09 was an excellent combination of choreography, rhythm and skill. A Mongolian war dance performed by Ting Ting Yang '09, strikingly costumed in crimson, evoked a warrior in battle through an effective combination of lighting, sweeping arm motions and sudden dynamic contrasts.

The most intriguing dance on the program was also the most recently learned. At the eleventh hour, von Bibra taught the dancers part of a Tibetan dance she had performed with the Ethnic Dance Theatre. The "work in progress" featured an innovative combination of percussive footwork and an uneven number of men and women.

The only ineffective dance of the show was the lethargic "Abare Taiko" from Japan, performed by Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick performed well, but it is impossible to imagine a dance more completely contrary to the frenetic spirit of taiko drumming. Striking lighting could not save Fitzpatrick from the slow pace and awkward choreography.

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