In a synthesis of modern dance disciplines, the College’s Department of Theater and Dance presents their annual Spring Dance Concert this weekend. Featuring a blend of introductory, intermediate and advanced level classes, the concert explores student individuality through the lens of repertory, choreography and improvisation.

“Dancing is always personal in the sense that we’re dealing with an essentially abstract art form,” said Paul Sarvis, chair of the theater and dance department. “But the forms are human beings, who obviously have biographies. When we work with the students, we’re building the dances around that particular collection of people in that moment of time.”

The production includes a variety of performance, including a student-produced screendance and an advanced-level repertory piece directed by Visiting Artist Laura Peterson.

“[Peterson] has a singular voice in the modern dance scene,” said Sarvis. “She’s working in a way that’s very rigorous and linear and demanding. You can sense a kind of polish and aesthetic sensibility that’s really distinct from the other courses and what typically goes on in the department.”

According to Sarvis, another unique facet of the show is simply the diversity of student performance background. Because Bowdoin does not currently offer a dance major, the department attracts a distinct blend of both experienced and inexperienced dancers.

“We’re not attracting people who want to pursue careers in dance,” said Sarvis. “The program is a balance between giving [the students] a novel experience and having some idea of audience in mind so that what serves the students is also interesting to watch… It’s delightful teaching the range of students who come to us, partly because Bowdoin attracts smart people and people who are curious.”

For several students, their preparation for the Spring Concert has provided an unlikely avenue to explore movement and art in both an academic and recreational light. Maddie Lemal-Brown ’18, a student in the introductory class Making Dances, noted that as a rugby player, her involvement in dance at Bowdoin has challenged the ways she views herself.

“It was an interesting transition into exploring my body in new ways, and it not just being a tool to go faster or be stronger,” Lemal-Brown said. “It’s really about what your body is, how many combinations can you use it for and not just using it for the same combination over and over.”
“[Sarvis] said at the beginning of the course that this is ‘serious play,’” Lemal-Brown added.

“That resonated with me. Getting to run around and act like a kid but also allow your own creativity to come back and tying it into academics—it makes you think in a lot of different ways. You have the freedom to think the way you want to… It’s not just dance, it’s reflection on art—on what is art, what is movement and what is the body.”

For Morgan Mills ’16, who choreographed and is performing in a piece called “Dreamscape,” the concert is both a presentation of her semester’s work as well as space to return to an art form she practiced throughout her childhood.

“I never thought I would be able to choreograph my own dance,” she said. “The dance program here gives students the opportunity to learn and pick it up so quickly. I used to have a very set definition of what dance consists of, but that has been expanded so much since coming here.”

“What we aspire to, in the department and the College and I would even say in society as a whole, is the embrace of diversity within a common goal,” Sarvis said. “It’s really a matter of the personalities and establishing a feeling of fluidity and openness. I hope that the audience leaves with an empathetic energy from the dance, but also that they see the articulation of bodies in a way they haven’t before.”