Dance and intimacy united as one

By By Sarah Custen, Staff Writer

By Sarah Custen, Staff Writer

Monica Campbell says she expects that the upcoming modern dance concert is going to be unique. As one of the graduate students whose choreography will be showcased this weekend, Campbell pointed out that this year’s class is smaller than usual8212;four students, when there are typically around eight8212;and more experienced. Each of them was out of school and working in the profession for at least five years before returning to earn a master’s degree.

“The pieces are more in depth, they’re a little longer and there’s more exploration,” she said.

Campbell is the only one of the four graduate students who received her undergraduate degree from the U. Her piece, titled “Tabula Rasa” (Latin for “blank slate”), reflects themes of starting over and rebuilding. It examines society post-Sept. 11 and “the collapse of structure and how that relates to the collapse of the individual,” Campbell said.

“Tabula Rasa” is also a collaboration with Evan Ritter, a set and lighting designer from Seattle and Campbell’s friend. Campbell received a Graduate Research Fellowship of $15,000 dollars from the U, which they’ve used to build an elaborate, metal set.

“We wanted to try to create an environment with the set,” Campbell said. “It was inspired by the structural design of the (World Trade Centers), in terms of the shape of the metal.”

Juan Carlos Claudio received a bachelor’s degree from USU in dance with a minor in biology. For his thesis at the U, he wanted to find a way to study his own experiences as a tool for choreography. Claudio’s work focuses on men and relationships, incorporating his personal experiences as a gay male in Western society, a son and a Puerto Rican. The dance, which is a duet for himself and another male dancer, looks at the different relationships in his life8212;father/son, mother/son, childhood friends8212;as well as his experiences as a male in today’s world.

“I’m hoping the audience feels somewhat compelled to what I have to say and what I have to show on stage in relation to what’s happening in today’s world,” he said, citing Proposition 8 as a current example of the complexities of male relationships within society.

Corinne Cappelletti studied at Goucher College in Maryland, earning an interdisciplinary degree in dance, anthropology and photography. Her thesis grew from an interest in the connection she has to the places she’s lived and how that affects who she is as a person. Cappelletti explored writings in geographic theory and environmentalism before concluding that the best way to explore relationships between people and places would be to use the idea or concept of home. She said she wanted to “deconstruct (home) and look at the assumptions8212;home as a really important and stable place, but what else is actually there?”

Cappelletti comes from a broken home and has moved constantly in her adult life. Her dance, “Between the Attic and the Cellar,” reflects that instability and tries to realize what grounds us. It also asks how our sense of home is rooted in natural environments and the earth. For this, Cappelletti said she “decided to use a really visceral material object in the piece8212;a large quantity of sawdust.”

The sawdust also plays into ideas of environment versus landscape.

“How do we actually engage with that landscape to be more aware of how we’re impacting it so that it becomes more of a lived-in place rather than a backdrop?” Cappelletti said.

Emily Fifer received a bachelor’s degree in theater from the University of Denver. Her work also investigates relationships. Specifically, it deals with how we construct intimate relationships and build or create our own sense of self and identity out of them. She also deals with what happens when we forget the importance of these relationships, at the point where we feel “stuck.”

Fifer’s piece, a duet called “Tangled Flesh,” started with her experience in contact improvisation, which she defines as “a movement form that involves usually two people and the information comes from touch. So the dance evolves and happens through touch.”

The tactile aspect is very important to Fifer.

“(It’s) the idea of touch and human contact, like flesh, and how much touch brings to a relationship and the intimacy of a relationship,” she said.

“In essence, all of our work has to do with how we relate to one another8212;our humanness,” Claudio said.

Cappelletti said that all of their work connects with current situations.

“Just the pace society is going at now, and that need for groundedness and place,” she said.

Fifer agrees. “Where the world is right now, there’s a stronger need for us to cultivate relationships,” she said. “Whether they be intimate or with a physical space. It’s really important that we aren’t just thinking of ourselves as a lone hero. That’s been kind of an American thing, and it’s not working anymore. This old model of the isolated artist, it needs to evolve.”

[email protected]