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ISSUE 120 VOL 4 PUBLISHED 10/13/2006

Companydance performs works in progress

By Anne Torkelson
Arts Editor

Friday, October 13, 2006

Friends and parents got a glimpse into the dance department’s process of creation Friday afternoon at the Companydance informal showing in Dittmann. The performance was a show of works in progress; as Chair of the Dance Department Janice Roberts said, "the pieces in their current form may look the same later in the year, or they may not look a thing like they do now." The show was done without lighting and was very casual, with faculty explaining the development and possible future of each dance.

Perhaps the most unique performance was the “open score” improvisation, a technique in which dancers move into the space and find a place, the dance starting when everyone is in a position. Liz Sexe ’'07, who has experience with improvisational performances, decided to get the dance going – she walked across the floor, casting mischievous glances to the side, and suddenly slumped to the ground. One by one, the other dancers followed suit, each moving at her own pace and assuming her own pose. Once they were in place, the music began.

Improvisation is about creating in the moment, and one of its challenges is to watch and listen to the other dancers. To help dancers learn communication while performing, part of the group will sometimes sit out during rehearsals and comment on the movements. During the show, five dancers performed while five sat on the floor in front of the audience and called out feedback, such as “keep the solo going,” “move upstage” and “nice tempo.” The dancers then fluidly incorporated these suggestions into their movements.

In another improvisational dance, a sort of storyline formed in which the dancers were angry with each other. They stomped across the floor, sent quick glares at each other and pushed one another out of their space, eliciting some laughter from the audience. As the dancers continued to react to each other, the story became more unified and connected. Instead of shoving, the dancers reached and pulled toward each other and followed each other’s movements, generating praise from the five watching dancers.

The show also featured an Armenian and a Pakistani dance. In “Jo Jon,” Jake Fitzpatrick '’07, Mitch Ebert ’'09, Elizabeth Berg ’'07 and Ting Ting Yang ’'09 performed choreography they had learned from a visiting Armenian dance teacher. The basic dance, which featured quick foot movements and stomping to a driving rhythm, will later be incorporated into a medley of ethnic dances. Connected to each other by their arms, the dancers slowly made a large circle, yelling out an occasional “"hey!"”

Fitzpatrick later put on a traditional costume and joined Ananya Mukhopadhyay ’'09 in a duet to a Pakistani fisherman song, taken from an all-Asian show performed last spring. The movements of the dance were very rhythmic and repetitive, and Fitzpatrick and Mukhopadhyay further entertained the audience with paddling motions as they made their exit.

Other dances in the show included a skillful solo blending modern and jazz by Assistant Professor of Dance Heather Klopchin, and a first-year project open to first years and anyone new to Companydance. Five women began with slow, lyrical movements to Alison Krauss’ “Down in the River to Pray.” Small groups of dancers slowly joined in from the wings, nicely corresponding with the song’s call to different groups – sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, sinners – to go down to the river.

The last piece of the show was a dance that will eventually incorporate many artists’ work, including sculpture, video production, original music and fans. The dance, which featured seven women, centered on the idea of flow and water. All did a "phrase," or set of movements, and then one would do the original phrase while her partner danced a variation. The dance was another excellent look into the rehearsal process – the girls had learned part of the dance only the previous day, and Roberts stood by the side, counting the beats aloud.

With its causal atmosphere and discussion of the pieces, the Companydance informal showing gave the audience a glimpse into the making and perfecting of various dances and a preview of the inspiration for the dances that will show later this year. “"Informal showings reveal the process of a piece,"” Sexe said. They give the audience an insight into the work that goes into a final performance.”

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