Pregnancy, War and Gorillas: Spring Back Dance
The weather changed just in time to welcome the opening night of the 2006 Spring Back Dance Concert. The sun outside melted magnificently and mild feathery warmth moved around those entering Warner for the show. Inside, student choreographers sprung onstage; new life covered the wooden dance floor like the daffodils that now rise out of greener grass outside. Warner Main Space was a tiny Tappan Square — less pedestrian, more synchronized.
The one and a half hour show began with “in other words,” a piece choreographed and danced by sophomore Julia Daniels and junior Elise Sipos. Dressed in all white and bathed in pink light, the image onstage resembled the sunset I’d just left. The two touched each others’ faces in wonder. The dance was meant to portray “all female relationships – lovers, sisters, mothers, and daughters” through fluid moments of togetherness and separation. The middle section of the piece was ushered in with warm yellow light, the dancers spun in an almost marionette-like way. The third and final movement was quiet, blue-grey. The relationship between the dancers seemed to have moved to an emotionally strong yet physically delicate connection.
The lights came up again to a solo piece; sophomore Lucinda Segar danced her own work, “on sitting in a still room.” She sat on a folding chair with her back to the audience, a lamp glowing at her shoulder. While Gillian Welch’s “I Made a Lover’s Prayer” sounded introspective tones, Lucinda danced with only her hands in the beginning.
“I have been greatly influenced and changed by the presence of two people in my life who are both greatly affected by disability, and I am continually struck by the beauty and grace of their co-existence.... I was experimenting with both embodying their particularities and gestures, as well as trying to articulate, physically and through movement, their respective and collective courage and grace,” said Lucinda.
Next, junior Liz Johnson walked on to the stage, dressed in plain, loose clothing that contrasted greatly with the dance she then performed. An “episodic dance-theater narrative,” the piece involved a monologue and several different scenes and dances, telling the intimate and personal story of “my apostrophe,” a college-aged woman who realizes she is pregnant. Changes in music were abrupt, cutting off moments in the dancer’s life and pushing new ones with urgency. A rush of deep emotion closed the piece as Johnson cried about her situation.
Abrasive sounds welcomed the next act, junior Beth Rogers’s “my homeland.” Along with dancers first-years Hannah Verrill and Alesandra Zsiba, she danced to the beat of garbled Iraqi poetry. The piece represented a land invaded with a war on the rise. In contrast to the dance before, this one showed relatively little emotion, but was compelling in its sense of urgency as the three dancers moved together through danger and destruction. As the music faded out, the three bent into precarious positions, their bodies slanted diagonally off the floor, looking fragile and ready to fall over.
The next piece involved similarly uncertain positions. Seniors Jeremie Chetrit and Tatyana Tenenbaum collaborated in a dance that depicted the process of choreographing a piece.
“I will stand here, watch you, want you – should I say that?” said Chetrit.
“Just say what you’re doing,” replied Tenenbaum.
In the dance, Chetrit watched as Tenenbaum crawled away into the shadows, pining for her through movement. When she returned, the two became a tangle of limbs as they sought to figure out the dance. The piece displayed the intent of their choreography. The piece, “in that light, lying down,” draws from Butoh dance and contact improvisation. As the dance continued, Chetrit danced in a stilted, shaky manner, but his actions remained strong, revealing the emotion behind writing a piece.
Ruby Rae Anderson choreographed and danced the next piece, “silverback touch,” and was accompanied by first-year dancer Dana Kelley. Grooving to the Gorillaz “Feel Good Inc.,” the two moved about like gorillas themselves, their hands curled into animal forms.
“The piece came about when I listened to the song ‘Feel Good Inc.’ and ‘heard’ gorilla movement in the music. Inspired to improvise with animal motion, I watched footage of wild gorillas in their natural habitat and created some new movements out of typical things that a gorilla would do,” said Ruby.
Until their bow (gorilla-style) at the end, the two played gorillas, acting out in occasional dance breakouts that spurred laughter from the audience.
Verrill and Zsiba appeared again, this time as authors of their own piece, “corpus callosum,” which involved a physical portrayal of some of our deepest internal struggles.
“Essentially the dance seeks to express the relationship between the self and the imagined self. How do they relate? How do they see each other? When can they see each other? When can’t they? Can they ever function as one? We then tried to explore the sadness that is a result of coming so close, and being so near without actual unity,” said the duo.
The seasoned piece had been performed in FELL last semester, and, if possible, had matured into an even more meaningful work. The flipping, wind-milling spiral of movement was dazzling and thought-provoking.
The next act, “all alone in a crowed room,” took a slightly different turn from the modern dance I had seen so far. Johann Sebastian Bach’s 25th variation in the infamous Goldberg Variations softly brought the piece into being; the notes of a piano accompanied choreographer/ dancer sophomore Georgia Wall and dancers first-years Zoe Barton and Micheline Heal as they floated through positions that resembled classic ballet, representative of the external self. The dancers then moved inward, becoming disjointed and out of sync, moving uncertainly to quivering cello music. While the piano played they were perfect, their faced painted with makeup and their arms uniform in their movements. But when the cello came in, they were unstable tightrope walkers, unsure of where to make their next step.
The final piece was a large-scale ten-person group dance led by junior
choreographer/dancers Cari-beth Klemundt and Rakia K. Seaborn. Called
“p.p.s. mostly I remember how you mispronounced my name,” the dance
focuses on identity through the acquisition and removal of high heels. Done as a
structured improvisation, the dance allows dancers Sipos, sophomore Elyse
Perruchon, Cat Wolner, first year Cherelle Lewis, Amy Oelsner, first year Dana
Kelley, junior Jessica Scharff and junior Rebecca Shaykin to comment on identity
through their movements. All wore variations of the same little black dress,
perhaps hinting at a shared quality, until the end where they broke free and
stripped down to reveal colorful underwear. This vibrant ending, done to Nina
Simone’s “Funkier Than a Mosquito’s Tweeter,” ended the
show with an appreciatively noisy audience.