Mattresses, melancholy and money are the three Ms on the lips of those lucky enough to have seen "December Dance" yesterday on opening night. The program, which continues with performances tonight and tomorrow night, showcases pieces from this semester's dance courses.
Bowdoin Senior Lecturer in Dance Performance Gwyneth Jones explained how mattresses were the inspiration for her Dance 112 piece, "Night," which opens the show.
"[The mattresses] made me choose the music...that was suggestive by title or feel of sleep or the mood of nighttime," said Jones. "I thought that the mattresses would give us a lot of options...nice padding to help you along."
The 12 dancers re-adjust four mattresses throughout the piece, reclining upon them to represent various stages of sleep. The mattresses also serve as cushioning for gymnastic feats and obstacles for the dancers to approach with various jumps and leaps.
Three long, white sheets cascade from the top of the room to the bottom, serving as a visual backdrop. The dancers mount and dismount four black cubes throughout the piece, moving to evocative music and a repeated line of text. At the end of the piece, in perhaps the most striking moment, a single performer inhales sharply and falls forward off her block as the lights cut out.
Jones commented on the uncommon gender make-up of the class. It is an "unusual class to have twice as many men as women," said Jones of the male-to-female ratio.
First year Brittany-Renee Vernon cited the unbalance of sexes as a positive aspect of "Night," her favorite piece.
"I thought it was interesting that the guys were dancing that much," said Vernon, who expected the performers to be predominantly female.
"I feel like they used a lot of the space on the floor," she said. "They didn't just lie on the beds like you would expect them too."
Although it is devoid of mattresses and short on other props, Dance 311's piece, "What We Leave Behind Us," left a deep impression on the opening-night audience.
"I've seen the piece twice, and both times it brought tears to my eyes," said Assistant Professor of Theater Abigail Killeen.
Adjunct Lecturer in Dance Daphne McCoy, who choreographed the piece and taught the course, described the piece as a meditation on change and transition.
"Our conceit for the piece was about chapters in your life when you're leaving a place to go to somewhere new...whether it's good or bad, it can still be painful," she said.
McCoy was inspired by the following quote from author Anatole France: "All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another."
The quote is read continuously throughout the piece by a variety of speakers. Of the readers, McCoy said, "We had a 5-, 8-, 19-, 30- and 63-year-old, and they each did the quote." All of the speakers are female, as are the dancers.
Killeen lends her voice to the musical backdrop, which combines the spoken quote with instrumental music by artists Roberta Grela and Moby.
Believing that all ages can relate to the theme of melancholy change, McCoy said the performers themselves are able to identify with the theme.
"Moving to college is a big chapter in their life," she said.
"I love to see students connected to, living in, and through their bodies," added Killeen.
Jones' other piece struck a very different note. Though it was inspired by musings on the state of the economy, there were only smiles following last night's performance of "Cash Flow." In the piece, students of Jones' Dance 212 class dance to songs by icons like Peggy Lee, Louis Armstrong and The Beatles, sharing the common theme of money.
Jones originally conceived of the students jangling money bags as props, but eventually decided to let "the sound come through in the music instead" in the beat of "Salsa Drum Music" by World Drums.
However, money bags are prominent in the piece: sand-filled sacks drop on to the stage, and are passed from performer to performer before being finally placed into the laps of front row audience members at the conclusion of the piece.
The "fun and sassy" music, which originally inspired Jones, lent itself to a lively performance.
Stage Manager Erin St. Peter '13 commented on this infectious energy: "All the dancers seem to have a lot of fun, which makes the show really enjoyable."
For senior Jonathan Viera, last night marked his first-ever dance show performance. Viera said he derived much of his enthusiasm from the "group dynamic" of Jones' course.
"We feel like a family now...[we're] always laughing, always having a good time together, so performing in front of an audience is a huge rush for us," he said.
The Department of Theater & Dance will present "December Dance" on tonight and tomorrow at 7 p.m., along with an additional performance tomorrow at 9 p.m., in Wish Theater, Memorial Hall.
General admission tickets are required, and are available at the David Saul Smith Union information desk. Due to limited seating, tickets expire 15 minutes before the show.