Modern Dance: Performing Life

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I’ve never been one to understand Modern dance. Before coming to Conn, the only dance I was really exposed to was classical and modern ballet. Like many other Conn students, I discovered modern dance for the first time when I came to Conn. For many people, myself included, modern dance is hard to understand.

Why is she eating on stage? Why are they running in circles? What’s with the falling and catching themselves? To this day, I don’t completely understand why these specific elements are integrated into modern dances. However, the more I’ve attended dance shows on campus, the more I have realized that modern dance is much like real life.

Over Halloween weekend, Conn’s Dance Club transformed Meyers Studio into their own stage, presenting the club’s annual fall semester show. This year’s show was titled “Backspace.”  According to the Dance Club Executive Board’s program notes, the title of the show was inspired by the idea that dance professors often mention the term “backspace” to Dance students,  “encouraging us to utilize the space.”

Backspace’s 12 original pieces were all choreographed by students. The choreographers included Sasha Peterson ’16, Emma Smith ’16 , Eva Vargas ’16, Cecilia Bole ’18  Stephanie Reeves ’16, Kelly Fairman ’18, Maddy Dickey ’18, Grace Finley ’16 , Sergio Madera ’16, Julia Lesniak ’17 and Emily Green ’18.

All of the 12 pieces were unique in their own ways. Some pieces were upbeat and included more jumping and running, while others were lyrical and slower paced, including more stationary movements. Overall, many of the dances seemed to have deeper meanings than what was on the surface. The final piece of the show, ‘’Murica,” choreographed by Green, was a dance that is “an ode to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” according to the program.

’Murica’” began with most of the dancers in a small “v” formation in the back of the stage, in front of a backdrop of an animated American flag as “The Star-Spangled Banner” played in the background. At this point in the piece, the focus was on one of Green’s dancers,Emma Smith ’16, who, like the dancers in the back, stood facing the backdrop with her right hand over her heart. As Smith stood in the front of the stage, she would eagerly turn to look down at an apple pie that was on the floor to the side of her every couple of seconds. Spoiler Alert: she ended up eating the pie.

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Photo courtesy of Hallie Carmen

As soon as the “The Star Spangled Banner” ended, the piece transitioned into a more upbeat, fast-paced celebration of American spirit, featuring Journey’s “Any Way You Want It.” When asked about how she came up with this idea of this patriotic piece, Green said, “For my first dance at Conn I just couldn’t bring myself to make something serious or sad. My ideas for my piece started when I heard the song [Journey’s “Any Way You Want it”] that I ended up using. It was upbeat and fun and the chorus of the song inspired the message I decided to channel into the dance.” Green continued, saying that she saw “the song’s chorus as reflecting the way I view our country’s behavior on political issues in the past and the present – doing whatever we want to because we want to, regardless of right or wrong.”

When asked about her choice to include the apple pie, Green replied, “The decision to add the pie (and the lovely dancer who ate the pie, Emma Smith) to the piece came about two weeks before the show. I wanted an extra non-serious element that still represented the over-arching ideas of the piece.

The next Dance Club show will be next semester. The Dance Club Executive Board, featuring co-presidents Maddy Dickey ’18 and Grace Bradley ’18 and treasurer Hanako Brais ’18, expressed their excitement about next semester’s show. “We’re eager to welcome back the juniors who are currently abroad. In the past, the juniors always bring their newfound inspirations to Dance Club, which challenges and raises the standards of creativity and experimentation,” they said.

So what should we make of modern and post-modern dance? Personally, the more I’ve attended this performance and countless others on campus, the more I’ve realized that Modern dance is more similar to our daily lives than anything. The running, falling and catching oneself and eating are all part of our lives somehow. However, modern dance seems to be much more polished, athletic, and graceful compared to our daily lives. It has the power to take a simple movement, such as walking or even waving to someone, and make it into something more. •