Masters of Fine Arts candidates from the modern dance department will be showcasing their interest areas and research over the past few years at the Fall Thesis Concert scheduled to take place this weekend. These third-year student candidates are Rebecca Aneloski, Ching-I Bigelow, Natalie Gotter and Huiwang Zhang. They have been doing research throughout their academic careers and will each be presenting a dance piece they created. The concert, titled “The Long and Short of It,” is a collaborative title, as each choreographer found their own themes in their different pieces.
From a duet to a group dance, these dances truly have interesting stories to share with the audience. With some of these choreographers having worked on their dance for the past year, these pieces exemplify the long processes they have gone through to get to this point.
Below is a brief synopsis of each of these students’ pieces in the concert.
Zhang uses the advice that English novelist Thomas Hardy gave, to record impressions and express ideas less, in his dance work. “My intention for this piece was to kind of construct a house of impressions,”Zhang said. Much of the dance is based on his life, throughout which he has understood himself as more of an observer than a choreographer. Experiences from his life included in the piece range from his journey from China and his time in Salt Lake City. Zhang also drew inspiration from the Biblical New Testament and the Greek myth of the “Thread of Ariadne.”
“You see different sections in this piece. It’s like a puzzle, it’s like a labyrinth. I was intending to let the audience figure out the thread. How are they going to go through this labyrinth and figure out the puzzle?” Zhang said, showing his desire to lend interpreting power to the audience. A quartet piece, the dance also takes inspiration from the dancers. “I think the biggest inspiration is coming from the dancers. They carry a lot of personality, they carry their attitude, they carry their stories,” he said. Zhang also wants to leave an impression. “It shouldn’t be 30 minutes and you forgot about it after you left the theatre. It should be something that resonates.”
Natalie has drawn from her feminist ideologies to create her dance. As such, looking at relationships between women plays a significant part here. As Gotter said, “If I would have to pair it down, I would say relationships between women that allow us to challenge ourselves [is what defines my dance]. I’m using dance as a way to physically manifest that.”
Consisting of a group dance with six people, Natalie took an interest in seeing her dance performers as people. “Instead of using them to represent my ideas, I’m interested in their ideas and them as people performing,” Gotter said. She is using her dancers’ actual relationships with one another to better portray realistic relationships, down to their experiences of collaboration and the emotions they feel that society may discourage. The process began with creating a comfort zone for all the dancers by sharing experiences and physical contact. This dance work, in actuality, was created by the dancers themselves, with Gotter acting as the editor. “All the movement from the piece came from my dancers,” she explained. This is because, as she said before, Gotter believes it is vital to represent her dancers as real people. “I wanted to just use women and have a piece choreographed by a woman, about being a woman, on women, showcasing physical strength and emotional vulnerability. And so I’m very proud of myself for having created a piece that has all those elements,” she concluded.
Aneloski’s choreography is based on the themes of human connection, how people handle shifting expectations and the concept of failure. Aneloski looked at everything that has turned wrong, from conversations, to rehearsals, to actions in her own life, before viewing them differently from the usual concept of perfection.
With that in mind, while creating her dance, if things didn’t go to plan, Aneloski took advantage of them instead of being deterred from her goals. “I pushed into those moments even more and I found the good. I found ways to push my dancers to be okay with messing up,” she explained. During the process, Aneloski found this concept through her surroundings and seeing many gaps as people find vulnerability as a weakness. “I wasn’t having a community to hold me up. So I felt like there were moments in my life where I felt I was sinking or I felt like exiled a little bit,” she said to elaborate on her choreography decisions.
Although she appreciates her friends and others in her life, it was their disconnection that lead Aneloski to wonder what brings true human connection. She later applied this to a bigger context towards this world filled with people who need help, questioning whether they are being heard.
This duet is dedicated to Bigelow’s grandfather, who passed away about a year ago. For Bigelow’s research, she mainly focused around the era in which her grandfather lived, which was around World War II when the Japanese occupied Taiwan. Bigelow found a lot of brutality in how the Japanese tortured and killed the Taiwanese, going so far as to even legalize prostitution for soldiers. This piece taps into darker themes. Bigelow explained, “Lots of violence and enrage-ment I think is the inspiration for this work especially.”
Bigelow’s work also focuses on the inequality in society nowadays for foreigners, drawing from her own experiences viewing aspects of this that others maybe don’t see. She has found a relation from her grandfather’s past to her own experiences through this creative work. During the creation process, she first worked with her partner, who is Mexican-American, on their identities. “We work from who we are first, the identity of us as individuals. And then we eventually relate that to the historical events. There’s a lot of feeling of identity crisis, as Taiwan is constantly unrecognized as a country,” she said.
The biggest struggle for Bigelow, however, could be being able to perform such a dark piece of work. “I’m having a resistance to go into this piece and performing it because every time before I have to go in, I have to set up a mental preparation. […] It’s not easy. It’s not just a dance piece. It’s so much involvement with the dark things or the characters you have to portray,” she explained.
Don’t miss the Graduate Thesis Concert on Thursday, Dec. 1 at 5:30 p.m., followed by Friday and Saturday performances at 7:30 p.m. at the Marriott Center for Dance. Students get in free with their UCard, and tickets can be purchased at the MCD box office the day of.