ALINA PANEK, News Editor — Five performances in two hours that leaves both the audience and dancers breathless as the dancers perform in somatic style.
The type of dance refers to techniques based on the dancer’s internal sensation, in contrast with “performative techniques,” such as ballet or modern dance, which emphasize the external observation of movement by an audience. The five performances were a part of the Dance Department’s annual winter concert.
Throughout all of the pieces, it felt like the dancers were not only performing with their movements but interacting with the stage and the audience as they slid, jumped and ran across the stage.
For the first work, the volunteer guide led the audience to a stairwell in the small group. The introductory dancers, directed by Professor Sandra Mathern of the Dance department, was not performed on a formal stage but on different platforms throughout the new Eisner Center for Performance Art.
Five female dancers, Nayeli Arredondo-Hernandez ‘20, Noelle Boyages ‘21, Molly Earnest ‘23, Emma Margo ‘23 and Jaelyn Roth ‘23 in different spaces throughout the building, all in hallways, some of them interacting with stairs, tables, and railings attached to glass. After a few minutes, the tour guides led each group to the next performance which was complemented by nature inspired relaxed instrumental music from a speaker nearest to the small groups of audiences. The finale of the first work ended with the five dances interacting with the stairs, dancing with each other, and the dancers leading the audience into the Thorsen Dance Studio after shouting, “Follow me!”
After the audience found their seats in the studio. Professor and Chair of Dance Gill Wright Miller and students, Noelle Boyages ‘21, Kyra Colah ‘21, Liz Gilbert ‘22, Zoe Loitz ‘21, Camm Mack ‘22, Manty Saldaneri ‘23, Julia South ‘21l, from her ‘Movement as Communication’ course delivered announcements. The students used sign language to communicate important messages to the audience like where the exits were and to turn off their phones.
The second and third works are both offered by Chicago choreographer and Denison Alumna Molly Shanahan ‘90. The quartet, Sebastian Goodman ‘23, Maggie LaMaster ‘22, Olivia Ogilvie ‘23, Fiona Shepherd ‘23 danced while interacting with each other and the space, styled in a similar manner with fingerless black gloves and a red fabric band around their waist. The dancers performed with the Third Coast Percussion, four male percussionists based in Chicago, who played drums and a xylophone for the piece The ensemble is a Grammy-winning, artist-run quartet of classically-trained percussionists who are also the ensemble-in-residence for the University of Notre Dame. The third large ensemble work for self-identified ‘non-dancers’, Grace Battersby ‘22, Echo Cain ‘21, Mia Chiappe ‘21, Mariam Duran ‘22, Angel Ehrenschwender ‘20, Ty Fleming ‘20, Tim Hagemeister ‘22, Nancy Li (class unknown), Payton McElfresh ‘22, Alan Phung ‘22, Chas Sigloh ‘21, John Spencer ‘21, Maddy Su ‘20, and Justin Wolfe ‘21, that ask performers to “soften muscular armoring and create/share an environment of collaboration, vulnerability, and compassion,” according to the Department of Dance brochure. The work evolved from Professor Shananan’s Fall 2019 course “Dance as an Art Form” course, where 12 dancers from the work was part of the 14 members of the course. They focused on what it means to see and be seen, especially on the practice of purchasing a virtuosity of compassion in encountering self and others in reality and in performance.
The final work, ‘1969’ offered by Associate Professor Ojeya Cruz Banks, celebrates the Black Student Union’s (BSU) 50th anniversary event in a performance work that includes narration and song. The piece began with a slideshow with archived pictures from the past and after statements made by Autumn Goodrum-Davis ‘20, Student Research/Artistic Assistant of the piece before the dancers, Vaval Victor ‘20, Alex Drumm ‘20, Jailena Almonte ‘22 came onstage.
“We wanted to shed light on the rich history of the BSU for current generations of Denisonians…. We tried to weave it all together to tell a story and share hope, love and fun with the community,” Goodrum-Davis said to The Denisonian.
“The piece invokes the ancestral matrix and political backdrop of the time such as: the Civil Rights movement, [the] Vietnam war, and student activism,” Goodrum-Davis wrote in her Facebook promotion of the event, “The establishment of BSU interrupted institutional racism, educational debts, and promoted Black well-being and diversity at Denison University.”
Students and dancers alike were wowed by the performance. Boyages, a dancer in the first work said, “The last piece in the show is amazing! It gave me chills it’s that good.”