Misconceptions of an exclamation point

By John Collins, Red Pulse Writer

The U continues to define itself as an impressive and dynamic place. Monday, at the Hayes Christian Theatre in the Marriott Center for Dance, the first of the department of modern dance’s two Senior Concerts was performed. Amid misconceptions about what to expect, Exclamation Point?, part one of the series, got under way.

Inside the theater was nothing short of a thriving community8212;one filled with genuine, creative and talented people. The senior dancers are in the process of putting their entire field of study into action. Each of the 21 seniors have cast, costumed and choreographed their own dance. Everything from lighting and sound to press releases has been handled strictly by the students and the department. These concerts8212;six total8212;use sound, silence and the body’s full range of motion to communicate carefully chosen moments and ideas.

Before looking into the inspirations and students behind many of these pieces, the show’s newlywed artistic directors, Jon Scoville and Tandy Beal spoke freely and openly. Their combined effort provided an understanding of the significance wrapped up in these performances. Pooling from four years of extensive study, relationships and life, each dance is a culmination. The student is left to freely pick and choose a message and the way in which it’s delivered.

“This is a stunning time for students to recapitulate and revisit why they fell in love with dance in the first place,” Beal said.

To further illustrate the process, Scoville commented on the collaborative nature of the performances.

“It’s like a jazz musician who suddenly has an 18-piece band to work with,” he said. “It’s a chance to try things out and let sociological and lyrical content re-emerge as movement.”

The freedom and purpose of this project wasn’t lost on the students, and the passion that Beal mentioned became immediately apparent once the performances began. Each segment of this project is the work of a unique vision. Cressa Perloff choreographs a folk piece in which her mother, Naomi Mindlin8212;who is also an accomplished dancer8212;moves beautifully across the stage before it fills with people casted from Cressa’s everyday existence.

“I feel like I’ve made a community with my dance,” she said. “All of these people are part of my life, many of them from the Jewish community. There’s my landlord.”

Perloff’s piece is called “Ruach, Neshama, Rikud,” Hebrew for Spirit/Wind Soul/Breath Dance.

Molly Heller’s performance, “$,” is a joy to watch and manages to be awe-inspiring and funny in almost equal portions.

“I explore awkward human interactions and I allow that awkwardness to be what it is rather than trying to change it,” Heller said. “Often in ballet, the movement is supposed to appear effortless and graceful…even if it’s not. Modern dance has no boundaries8212;the awkward can just be awkward, that’s the freedom in it.”

Temria Airmet echoed a similar sentiment.

“I was thinking about what to create and dwelling on ideas for a long time,” she said. “But it progressed until it became about letting go, and letting whatever happens naturally just happen. I’m really satisfied.”

The scope that the students draw from continues to expand as the concert moves forward.

“I wanted to save the most meaningful piece for last,” said Jaree Whipple. “I’ve had this idea for two years, and I finally get to do it. It’s a memorial for my brother,”

The presence of emotion in the theater remains tangible for reasons such as this one and different but no less relevant interpretations of life through the eyes of the dancers.

Mary Kate Sickel explores vision itself in her choreography. “My performance is about where the eye goes, with an emphasis on the smaller and more private movements,” she said. “It’s less about the space between and more about the dancers themselves.”

Destiny Olsen, who appears in many of her fellow students’ performances, composed a fascinating segment titled “Who We are Becoming.” The idea for this dance stemmed from her work with patients involved in drug rehabilitation and her discussions with the lives that the abuse had affected.

“I let personal experiences create the movement and tried to incorporate the real details into the piece,” she said. During one part of the performance, Olsen’s dancers mimic the nervous twitch of an addict.

The final event of the evening is choreographed by the distinguished Gesel Mason. In this piece, all performing seniors join on stage for a powerful performance, backed by music and the voices of the dancers as they talk about brief moments in their four year experience at the U. These examples and the performances that they inspire are just a few of the 21 interpretations that the concerts showcase. They also serve as an insight into what is a very capable and appealing art form. What the members of this graduating class have managed to accomplish during their stay at the U is well worth the support of the campus as a whole. Almost regardless of where each individual is coming from, the effect that these artists have is a beautiful one that is as effortless as it is enjoyable to watch.

Broken into two parts because of the class size, performances of Part I are being held in the Hayes Christen Theatre in the Marriott Center for Dance on March 11, 12 and 14 at 7:30 p.m. Part II, Question Mark!, will be held after Spring Break on April 2-April 4 at the same time and place. Feel free to bring any misconceptions regarding modern dance with you to the theatre, but accept the probability that these performances will change your mind.

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