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Spring Dance Concert showcases original works by faculty, students

May 5, 2017

Ann Basu
PILLOW TALK: The department of theater and dance’s Modern I class rehearses its group piece on Monday evening. The performance centers on themes of sleep through a moving storyline and dream sequences. The concert also features performances by Modern III, independent student artists and Bowdoin alumna Rakiya Orange ’11.

Pillows and sleep, improvisation, site-specific choreography and being yourself—this year’s annual Spring Dance Concert will showcase a broad range of contemporary styles, themes and techniques from dancers enrolled in student soloists, special guest Rakiya Orange ’11 and Modern classes.

Both group performances—Modern I and Modern III—will explore contemporary styles of dance.

Students in Modern I, an introductory class taught by Senior Lecturer in Dance Performance Gwyneth Jones, are preparing a fun and energetic piece centered on the theme of sleep. It will feature props, like pillows and sheets, a moving storyline and complex movements and patterning.

“Gwyneth is a fantastic professor,” said Elizabeth Givens ’17, a student in Modern I. “She has so much energy, trust and creativity in getting everyone to work together.”

The piece for Modern III students does not have a planned theme and is improvisational. Taught by Assistant Professor of Dance Aretha Aoki, Modern III is a class with only eight advanced dancers. Though Aoki is the chief choreographer, she let students have significant creative control.

“We did a lot of improvisation—I’d sometimes have dancers make movement based on those improvisations or I would craft movements,” said Aoki. “This piece really reflects all of our creative minds, not just mine. It’s very much a collaboration.”

In addition to the group numbers, two students, Ben Eisenberg ’17 and Gina Fickera ’18, will showcase their own independent projects. Eisenberg, a Visual Arts major who has taken numerous classes in the dance and theatre department, will dance to a short piece by the band Mum. His choreography showcases his skills as a graceful mover as he works with the floor, his weight and momentum to explore a nuanced relationship with the music.

Fickera will take center stage as well with Joy Huang ’19 and Melissa Miura ’19 to perform a piece the three dancers choreographed themselves. The piece is a continuation of Fickera’s independent study last semester, in which she explored the avant-garde technique of site-specific choreography. The trio improvisationally danced in public areas around campus and ultimately filmed a performance in the Peary-MacMillian Arctic Museum.

“The dance was based off of the frameworks of the space: the architecture, the ambient noise, the lighting, things like that,” said Fickera. “We focused on the sled that Peary and Macmillan used in their voyage to the Arctic and created a dance that brought that to life.”

This video of the dance will be played on a screen at the concert in conjunction with a new, live dance from Fickera, Huang and Miura.

Most notably, Bowdoin alumna Rakiya Orange ’11 will return to the Bowdoin stage where her dance career began to perform a 10-minute solo piece, “Nina.” Orange drew inspiration for her performance from iconic black films that she grew up with in the 1990s. Themes of maturation, coming of age and relationships brought her to question what it means to be in love, be present and be yourself. Orange has been choreographing the piece since February, but much of her work on the piece has actually taken place outside the studio.

“The work has mostly been reading, writing, and having conversations with family members and friends around those salient ideas of relationships and love, respect, community,” said Orange. “I take those ideas and play with them in the studio through improvisation.”

Since graduating from Bowdoin, Orange received a Masters in Fine Arts from Hollins University in Roanoke, VA and has performed solo work in New York. She also teaches kindergarten at an all-boys school and dance at an all-girls school in Baltimore.

According to Givens, the student performers who have prepared for this concert all semester are thrilled to showcase their final product this weekend.

“Over the semester, I’ve gotten so much more confident making specific movements, even if they seem ridiculous,” said Givens.

The Spring Dance Concert will run Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening at 7:30 p.m. in Pickard Theater’s Memorial Hall. Tickets are free at the David Saul Smith Union Information Desk and at the door.

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