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ISSUE 120 VOL 13 PUBLISHED 3/2/2007

Improv dances stand out in Rhythm Project

By Kelly Wilson
Staff Writer

Friday, March 2, 2007

Assistant Professor of Dance Sherry Saterstrom, St. Olaf alumni and a troupe of St. Olaf student dancers performed in The Rhythm Project last Friday in Dittmann Studio One.

The performance featured a mix of choreographed and improvisational dances and upheld a variety-show format, with each brief segment showcasing a different dance. Kyle Carson, the show’s technical director and lighting guru, said “[The show is] a throwback to vaudeville. It uses different meanings and styles of dances within two-minute periods. The dancers, musicians and crew all work together to set a tone.”

The performance opened with an introduction by Saterstrom. “We pay so much attention to rhythms outside that we don’t notice the ones in our own bodies,” she said.

After Saterstrom left the floor, a jazzy riff began and nine dancers came tapping out in trench coats to mark the beginning of the first dance, “It’s Show Time.” Spotlight solos highlighted the talents of individual dancers as their feet jived and rapped out metallic beats.

Halfway through the number, the dancers shed their cumbersome coats to reveal mismatched garments in fluorescent colors and outrageous patterns. The tapping continued, their heels clicking out variations of synchronized and random rhythms.

Each segment of the show offered something different to the audience and presented a bevy of well-trained dancers to marvel at. Christine Coleman ’08, Jenny Berghs ’09 and Kelly Laures ’09 shone in their original piece “Ceilidh,” a cheerful traditional Irish group-dance. “Shhh!” exhibited Saterstrom’s exceptional talent and proclivity for modern dance as she explored the studio space, occasionally interrupted by the rhythms of a drum or her own staccato breath. “A Day in the Life” jested at the “typical” St. Olaf day, while “Simultaneous Solos” introduced the audience to a variety of modern-dance styles. “It’s All in the Costume,” set to Bob Dylan’s “Thunder on the Mountain,” had all the panache of grooving honky-tonk boogie.

Yet the pieces that stood out the most were the improvisational segments. Dancers twisted their torsos and stretched their arms in expressive contemporary techniques that were so fluid and natural that they somehow didn’t seem improvised at all.

“Pa-Pa-Pa-Pa Pelvis” was one of the few pieces that lacked creativity or originality. Though entertaining, the movements were clichéd and reminiscent of a high school dance team.

In true modern dance fashion, the finale demanded that the audience find their rhythms and express themselves as well. The cast invited spectators to the floor to participate in a dance party.

Carson commented on the engaging nature of the show. “When you see a performance at Kelsey, the idea is to entertain the audience. With the Rhythm Project, there is audience interaction and participation. The audience surrounds the stage, so the wall is taken down,” he said.

Sarah Robison ’07 attended after hearing about the show in one of her dance classes. “My favorite part of the show was the improvisation,” she said. “I was really moved.”

The performance set for Feb. 24 was cancelled due to extreme weather conditions and is rescheduled for March 3 at 7:30 p.m.

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