The 2013 faculty dance show opened with drums.
Susan Connelly’s Bantaba got the audience moving in their seats to the lively West African dance, featuring 11 Conn women who had come together to rehearse once a week for this performance, which included a stupendous drum solo.
The second piece was Lumens by Professor Lisa Race. “I was originally going to base [the piece] off something already made, but it was a different sort of group so that went away,” said Race. “Some movements are similar but became its own dance and choreography: that mostly comes from watching the students, allowing it to become theirs.” The piece was a slow one, featuring nineteen students in sparkly beige and tan clothes. The dance especially incorporated a changing of levels for the dancers, some moving on the ground while others knelt and stood. This created a pleasing overall image for the audience. Stephanie Reeves ’16, who danced in Race’s piece, commented, “I was in last year’s show, but I’m more involved this year, working with choreographers I’ve not worked with before.” She added, “It is also a different context, going from informal class to a rehearsal time where we have to learn lots of material.”
“I feel like this has been a very attentive group, sensitive to the fact there were fewer rehearsals and we were a little under-pressure.” Said Race about her students, “These particular students were collaborators. What they came up with guided me choreographically, helping me create the piece.”
The next piece was by Conn’s own Meredith Freidman ’14, whose piece from the most recent Dance Club performance was selected to be in the show. “Choreographing adds a whole other level of anxiety to the process. But it’s the good kind of anxiety, like when you’re about to get on a roller coaster for the first time.”
Freidman remarked that performing in Palmer Auditorium, in front of a larger audience, is very different from Dance Club. “The thing I love most about performing in a space like Palmer Auditorium is that it truly brings any piece to life, and everyone is helping to make that possible,” she said. “I think the support from the faculty and my peers has been so wonderful. Everyone wants to and is willing to help out, whether it be with feedback, suggestions or simply bringing over a snack.”
Shawn Hove choreographed the fourth piece in the show. Called 8:47 at 4th and Pine, this was his first choreographed piece for Conn College. The curtains rose on a stage covered in coats hanging from the ceiling, which the dancers moved among and eventually donned. They then launched into a movement very reminiscent of a late-night street corner in the rain, an impression furthered by the lighting for the piece. David Dorfman observed that Hove’s piece had a “gorgeous feel to it.”
Emily Ryan ’16, who danced in Hove’s piece, said, “This is my first time dancing in the show–I crewed last year. It’s really gratifying to be performing in it.” She also added, “It’s more interesting this year, I’m working with three different chorographers. It is a totally different process, but I’ve been able to learn so many different things from all of them, so it’s been great.”
The last piece before intermission was by Professor David Dorfman, chair of the Dance Department. It was titled Rate of Exchange (What I Want). “I thought I would do something different this year, so instead of making a new piece, I decided to restage an older piece, and so I picked a piece from the 2002 Dayton residency, when I was first at Conn College,” said Dorfman. The piece was a mash-up of beautiful dancing and monologues by several dancers, including one written by Maggie Bennett ’05. “While phrase material and intent might have remained the same, the piece has created its own identity.” As Nicole Witko ’14, who was in the piece, added, “Overall, this experience has been more demanding, fulfilling and engaging than ever before.”
When reflecting on the experience of working with these current students, Dorfman described it as “Different overall, but really enjoyable, even though I utilized other assistance. I taught all the movement, and I am really proud of myself.” He said, “It’s nice when the students can get it right from the professors.”
After a brief intermission, the show picked back up with Faye Driscoll’s Life dress rehearsal, which featured no music, beautiful costumes and some incredible dancing. Professor Heidi Henderson, who is the costume designer as well as a choreographer for the show, created the costumes for Driscoll’s piece: “I put her dancers in black leggings with cut-off eighties prom dresses (lots of ugly sequins and poufy sleeves). They look like a bizarre tribe of folks from some recognizable but alien land.” The piece was hugely entertaining, especially for the audience, who laughed along with the dancers (at the points when they spoke out loud) and while they fought each other in slow motion while transitioning into their various formations.
The seventh piece was the second one choreographed by a Conn student. This one was by Aaron Samuel Davis ‘14 and called Vinyl.Humiliation.Take.Over. While it was also preformed at the Dance Club show earlier this fall, Davis had changed it to feature a text called “Achilles. Love Story” narrated by Byrne Fone, which added another layer of creativity to this piece. “The most rewarding process so far has been the ability to showcase my own choreography in this year’s faculty dance show. Two student pieces were selected and I was pleased to hear that I would be one of them,” said Davis.
Witko, who danced in Davis’s piece, said that “Seniors, as well as myself, have been given more responsibilities to take on. Anywhere from running rehearsals or helping out underclassmen has been an essential role that we’ve learned to play.” Even with all this work, the rewards outweigh the costs. “It is because of this concert that we all get to sweat together, work together and support one another. This department in general is unlike any other; we truly are a family,” she said.
The final piece was choreographed by Professor Heidi Henderson and called Step Touch. Henderson describes her style as “abstract minimalist work” and this one was especially poignant, with the dancers in flowery print blouses and skirts, barely showing any emotion as Justin Timberlake’s “Rock Your Body” reverberated through Palmer. “I adore these students. They have been engaged in the process with me, uncomplainingly going along for the ride. The piece is mildly funny and ironic,” said Henderson. “They have worked so beautifully to learn to displace emotion and affect in order to help the piece read cleanly and neutrally. And then they are also fierce wonder women in one part.” One of these wonder women is Emma Smith ’17, who is one of four freshmen dancing in the show. “It’s really exciting. I’m getting very integrated into the dance community, knowing more teachers, getting to know people better,” she said. “It’s fun to be in the process making the work. I have a new appreciation for performance, and a new perspective too.”