The Dance Department’s Senior Capstone Performance, “Proximity,” swept students, families, faculty and staff into Palmer last weekend. The show featured choreography by senior dance majors Ashley Barattini, Marisa Bryant, Marina Gearhart, Danielle Kaplan, Erika Martin, Emilie Stoll, Brooke Ross and Ruy Zambrano as well as choreography by faculty member Lisa Race and guest artist Shen Wei Dance Arts. Students of all class years participated as dancers, as well as on the student production staff as light and sound board operators, stage managers and ushers. The production staff was guided and trained by Shawn Hove, the production manager and member of the Dance Department faculty.
The show opened with Lisa Race’s piece, choreographed on all senior dance majors, titled, “What’s The Alternative?” The lights came up on one dancer running in place, his face frozen in a smile. He ran as though he did not know where he was going, or if he was going anywhere. Every few moments, he turned his head abruptly to the side, looking toward the wings, in search of something or someone. After many cycles — looking forward with a smile, head turning, looking forward, head turning again—other dancers joined him onstage. He then stopped running and whispered, “Sometimes, I get sad.”
He proceeded to describe his sadness, its depth and its causes. He spoke of current events, of politics, and how the weight of it all can drag one down. But he then made contact with another dancer onstage, and stated, “This makes me feel better.” After he pause, he continued with, “They make me feel better.”
Race’s dance explored the power of human interaction. There were moments in the piece when the dancers paired up and embraced, and they would remain in embraces for long stretches of time. The dancers held each other up, took weight, lent strength. It was quite beautiful to watch.
This theme bled into the works of students. Each work explored, in some sense, the concept of relationships, touch, interaction, support. Danielle Kaplan’s piece, “How Far Will We Float? An Autobiography,” explored, as she stated in the program, “the emotional turbulence that is the undergraduate experience.” Though her piece was non-narrative, the dancers used each other onstage for support and contact was a big part of her work. In Marina Gearhart’s piece, “Is This Fleeting? Or Will It Last?” the dancers, dressed all in white, limbs and faces streaked with paint, collaborated and shared energy as they moved through the space.
The movement each choreographer crafted was powerful on its own. But underneath the movement, propelling the movement forward, were the relationships between the human beings onstage, between the choreographer and the dancers, between those backstage and those performing, between those in the audience and those involved in the show.
The relationship between the faculty in the Dance Department and the student choreographers was also evident. It was clear that each student had found his or her own choreographic voice through studying with professors at Conn. There was a clear connection between the movement of Lisa Race and the movement in the student’s pieces, though it was also clear that each student had taken the knowledge provided here and stretched it in his or her own direction, made it personal.
Being in the audience at a dance performance at Conn means that you will be asking questions; you will be moved; you will be thinking about the power of the human body and the power of creating through contact and interaction. You will leave the show considering how movement can be used to tell stories, but also how much strength it holds even when it does not represent anything larger than itself.