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ISSUE 120 VOL 18 PUBLISHED 4/20/2007

Veselica shows diversity through dance

By Tim Rehborg
Opinion Editor

Friday, April 20, 2007

This past weekend, members of St. Olaf international dance ensemble Veselica performed their spring concert, joined by several student guest performers. The concert began with “Valpovac’ka Kolo,” a piece from Croatia. Three couples danced through a series of lines, large group circles and smaller formations in this cheery festival dance. The women wore striking outfits: petticoats, large collars and long striped socks.

“Ruskaya,” a dance from Russia, brought a note of solemnity to the performance. The choreography was structured around short solo sections as each dancer tried to impress his or her partner. The men’'s solos, complete with traditional boot- and hip-slapping movements, were especially enjoyable.

The “Kuda Kuda” is a men’s dance from Java, Indonesia. Three men performed this dance, a coarse form of Javanese court dancing. This piece differed from most others on the program as a classical form of dance and not a folk dance. Classical dance, like ballet, is characterized by a codification of movement and a certain movement vocabulary. Unlike folk dance, classical dance is usually performance-oriented and often carries a narrative theme. In “Kuda Kuda,” the movement was large and gestural, encompassing dramatic weight shifts and expressive faces.

Four couples emerged to perform “Krakowiak,” a piece from Poland that illustrates a typical arrangement of movement in Polish folk dances.

Erupting on stage with a loud stomp, the dancers performed difficult and complex choreography. The dancers alternated between couples, same-gender circles and large group formations. Especially appealing was the pinwheel section, where the dancers formed a large line and rotated together in the middle of the stage.

In another classical dance piece, guest performer Ananya Mukhopadhyay ’'09 performed “Mangalacharan,” a dance from India. Classically trained in Orissi dance, Mukhopadhyay performed in full Indian costume and makeup. The piece began with a melodic, expressive section in which she offered prayers to the god and performed movements that illustrated the qualities of the deity. Her red-tipped fingers gracefully illustrated the “mudras,” which are precise gestures carrying specific meanings, a type of sign language for dance. The second section of the piece was the free-dance or rhythmic portion. Marked by the loud, rhythmic beating of feet on the floor, this section was a dynamic contrast to the smooth prayers of the first part.

Joined by three Tibetan guest performers, the group performed a piece from Tibet. The dancers strode on stage, singing with the music and swinging their arms and legs with a great sense of weight. The movement was largely repetitive, but the choreography led the dancers through many formations on stage.

After a short interlude of Japanese dancers holding cherry branches, the concert finished with a piece from Vera Cruz, Mexico: “El Cascabel y El Canelo.” Irene Minoei ’'07, the dance’s choreographer, began the piece with a striking solo performance. Wearing a long white dress with flamboyant skirts, hair adorned with red flowers, her rhythmic footwork peeked beneath the skirt she gracefully swirled up and around. Three couples then joined Minoei to end the concert ended with dynamic backbends and impressive footwork in a flurry of white chiffon and red roses.

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