Displaying items by tag: Performing Dance Company

The University of Utah School of Dance presents Performing Dance Company this weekend, October 29-31, through its virtual streaming format. The concert features premieres from faculty choreographers: Natalie Desch, Christine McMillan, and Satu Hummasti & Daniel Clifton.

Guest Artist Melanie George will also premiere a work for eight dancers. “…from Down Here”  is a blues-based jazz work emphasizing themes of labor for the individual and the group through gesture and rhythm. 

Melanie George’s signature neo-jazz style was a new to a majority of the cast, and expanded their vocabulary.

“Melanie’s cast of dancers had varying jazz dance experiences, but no one had experience learning or performing neo-jazz dance,” rehearsal director Jessica Boone said. Boone is second-year graduate student in the MFA in Modern Dance program, and has continued working with the dancers after George’s virtual residency concluded. 

“During this entire process of learning and rehearsing Melanie’s choreography, dancers have continually questioned and deepened their understanding of neo-jazz dance principles of weight-sensing, rhythm, isolations, footwork, musicality in connection with jazz music, Africanist vernacular movement, improvisation and community. It is a lot of information for the dancers to actively consider and make choices about while performing, and they have risen to the challenge.”Melanie

“The work has as much improvisation as it does set choreography,” Melanie George explained.  We spent the first few rehearsals learning jazz improvisation methods, which differ significantly from the way improvisation is practiced in postmodern dance. Improvisation in jazz dance is fundamental, as it is in all dance forms of the African Diaspora.”

The music for the work — including compositions by Jimi Hendrix, Roberta Flack, and Cassandra Wilson — was essential to the process as well. “In my work, I mostly use jazz music and its related forms, blues and funk. The blues has many textures and encompasses a wide spectrum of emotions. It’s a very effective path to introduce young dancers to roots-based jazz dancing,” George said. 

As with all Fall 2020 performances, the residency called for creative solutions to the challenges posed by social distancing and mask requirements. It goes without saying that having a guest artist present virtually is a different experience than working together in the studio. Regardless, U dancers faced the process with positivity and enthusiasm.

During this entire process of learning and rehearsing Melanie’s choreography, dancers have continually questioned and deepened their understanding of neo-jazz dance principles of weight-sensing, rhythm, isolations, footwork, musicality in connection with jazz music, Africanist vernacular movement, improvisation and community.

“We had to learn new ways of communicating instructions and questions, figuring out directional facings of movement, and deal with inconsistent technology issues. Despite having two camera views for Melanie to see, it was impossible to get a good viewing angle of the entire room. We had to learn how to maintain a sense of energy and community inside the studio without Melanie's presence in the physical space with us,” Boone said.

“On top of learning choreography on Zoom, we had to navigate COVID safety protocols that impacted the spacing, traveling, and the use of props in the dance. Melanie was very aware of keeping the dancers safe, so when it was time for the dancers to move around the studio, we worked slowly to find pathways that would keep the dancers physically distanced.”

The School of Dance has made it possible to allow as many people into the audience as possible by live-streaming performances at no cost! Viewers can catch this exciting concert at dance.utah.edu/virtual shows.

Join U School of Dance for Performing Dance Company

10/29 at 5:30 pm
10/30 at 7:30 pm
10/31 at 2 & 7:30 pm

Published in Finer Points Blog

This semester, the School of Dance hosted guest artists Omar Carrum and Charles Anderson, whose work will be shown this week in Performing Dance Company’s fall concert, opening this Thursday in the Marriott Center for Dance. In brief but powerful residencies on campus, these artists left more than just polished works behind. The philosophies and experiences they shared with dancers continue to have lingering impact beyond the stage and studio. 

Hailing from Mexico City, choreographer Omar Carrum collaborated with the students to create “Alchemy of the 7 Elements,” an elegant journey through the dancers’ memories and beliefs. “I've been researching how to use our deepest emotions without them disturbing or hurting us while accessing them -- to be able to go in and out, using just a drop of sincerity in the process,” Carrum said. “I think of movement as reactions of what’s happening inside.” Carrum1Omar Carrum partners with School of Dance student

While in the studio, Carrum worked with “the development of fictional characters based on real experiences from our past histories, and how those histories interweave with the histories of others.” He asserted, “I truly believe that artists are alchemists that can change any ‘lead’ experience into a ‘gold’ metaphor.”

“So many dance teachers say ‘leave your baggage at the door’ but Omar explicitly asked us to share our baggage with him and each other. Omar helped us develop individual characters by combining different versions of ourselves,” dancer Arin Lynn said. “Personally, I am learning a lot about what identity means to me. By researching these types of questions, we become more alive inside of performance.”  

Lynn also found Carrum’s “drop of sincerity” a useful tool in making performance honest but not overbearing. “This idea has affected all of our dancing and I believe it will take me a long time to fully understand that concept,” Lynn said. “However, the drop of sincerity awakened a psycho-physical awareness which has changed my relationship with my own dancing for the better.” 

Choreographer Charles Anderson worked with 15 dancers, including both ballet and modern majors, to reconstruct an excerpted version of "(Re)current Unrest," an evening length immersive performance ‘ritual’ built upon the sonic foundation of Steve Reich’s three earliest works. The larger project began as an investigation of legacy, authorship and citizenship and protest through the lens of the erasure of the Africanist presence inside of Reich’s compositions. The excerpted version, “(Re)current Unrest: We Are The People” is a meditation on the increase in racially motivated violence and what it means to be an American. 

Anderson wrote, “I am a Richmond, VA born and raised, Black, gay, first-generation, ivy league college educated artist-educator-activist.  As a choreographer I am formally trained as a post-modernist.  As an African American artist committed to dance for social justice, I am a kinetic storyteller.  I approach choreography and dance theatre as metaphor for kinetic storytelling or testimony.  I create dance-theatre that is informed and inflected by contemporary expressions of African Diasporic vernacular dance.”

Graduate teaching assistant Alexandra Barbier assisted Anderson in the rehearsal process. For Barbier, Anderson’s work extended far past technique and “steps.” “Parts of the choreography are pretty complicated, but I believe that one of Charles's main goals in setting this work was to build community and to expose us to the unquestioned, sometimes problematic, ideologies within our culture that shape how we learn and perform as dancers,” she said. 

When it comes to social activism, the final performance product is not the only place of impact. Barbier continued, “Charles led conversations about race, class, gender, the systems that perpetuate oppression and the questions we should ask ourselves in order to dismantle these systems. I have no doubt that the cast will continue to grapple with these ideas outside of the time spent in the studio... and that is the activism. The audience may not engage with these concepts beyond the 12 minutes they spend viewing the final product, but the knowledge gained in the process will (hopefully) live on and be disseminated by the dancers as they interact with the world.”

Don’t miss the chance to see Performing Dance Company Oct. 3-5 and 17-19. For more information visit dance.utah.edu. 

Published in Finer Points Blog

The School of Dance will present five new choreographic works this November at Performing Dance Company (PDC). PDC offers its audience a professional-level performance by students in the Modern Dance Program. The concert opens 11/1 and will showcase choreography from faculty and guest artists, focusing on the creation of new works. This year, PDC will feature the original choreography of faculty members Molly Heller, Sara Pickett, Luc Vanier, and Daniel Clifton. The School of Dance also welcomes guest choreographers Lauren Simpson and Jenny Stulberg of Simpson/Stulberg Collaborations, who will collaborate on a piece for the PDC stage.

Assistant Professor Molly Heller will present a new work entitled Heartland: Studies of the Heart, which “explores the idioms, sensations, associations, and physical spaces of the heart.” Structured as three overlapping solos, Heller creates a dense terrain where the heart is magnified, exposed, moved, and experienced as always being whole.

School of Dance Director Luc Vanier will also set his work, Deflating Debussy on the PDC dancers. “Deflating Debussy merges the more romantic part of my soul with my drive to deconstruct the use of épaulement (shouldering) in Ballet technique,” explains Vanier. “Broadly misunderstood as aesthetic decoration, the sometimes obvious and sometimes subtle oppositions of the head, shoulders and pelvis facilitate turnout, balance, and control. Once more intimately understood, épaulement reveals a three-dimensional awareness of the oppositional pulls in the body that though ‘antagonistic,’ allow for increased freedom and choice in movement.”

In Assistant Professor Lecturer Daniel Clifton’s new creation for PDC, he explores dreams as a starting point to generate material. “If dreams are a series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in a person's mind during sleep are they are a reflection of ourselves, or a window into our subconscious and a way of working through the details of our lives?”

Astriction, a new work from School of Dance Assistant Professor Sara Pickett, plays with the dichotomy of multiple layers of reality and embraces the contradictions that may lie within that experience. The choreography “uses notions of memory, tension, and confusion to build a world that represents someone working to grasp authenticity even when it exists in the tenuous place where wants and reality collide,” says Pickett

The School of Dance is pleased to welcome Lauren Simpson and Jenny Stulberg for a residency with the PDC dancers. Simpson/Stulberg Collaborations is a Bay Area based dance company making dances and dance films. Their ongoing project, Still Life Dances, is a series of detailed and intimate movement studies based on still life paintings. The duo’s piece for PDC was inspired by Flemish artist Francois Ykens’ “Flower Still Life” from 1644 (UMFA collection), this dance references to the beginnings of ballet, harpsichord music, and visual art of the era. “Through our own personalities, aesthetic inclinations, and contemporary dance bodies, we pay homage to the detail and precision valued in all art disciplines from the 17th century.”

 Join us for a concert by the Performing Dance Company, 11/1 – 11/10 at the Marriott Center for Dance at the University of Utah. Tickets are available online, by phone at 801.581.7100 or at the door 30 minutes prior to curtain. For more information please visit here.


Published in Finer Points Blog