Creating a swirling sea of resplendent and contrasting shades of blue with their every leap and turn, the dancers of Advanced Repertory, Dance 312, welcomed the audience to the Spring Dance Concert yesterday evening.
The ever-evolving dance program will celebrate 40 years of dance with its Spring Dance concert, among other events and performances.
"When classes in dance began in the fall of 1971, in Sargent Gymnasium, neither I nor the students were thinking of a long run future for dance," Professor of Dance June Vail wrote to the Orient. "But very slowly, over the years—through efforts by faculty, administrators and especially students—the dance program grew from a co-curricular program with modern technique, dance history and choreography courses to an academic department."
Larry Keigwin + Company, a contemporary dance company based in New York City, kicked off the "Dance 40" performances on April 9 with a one-night-only showing. Assisstant Professor of Theater and Dance Charlotte Griffin's dance-for-the-camera presentation "Dance in Focus" on April 10 followed, with a presentation of dance films. In addition to the multimedia dance company Troika Ranch's performances Wednesday and yesterday, the main event, The Spring Dance Concert, marked its opening with a dynamic and energetic performance.
"I believe the curriculum will continue to evolve in similar organic ways into the future, because Bowdoin realizes how enriching dance can be as a part of a liberal arts education. The Dance 40 festival celebrates that," wrote Vail.
The program includes pieces from the three levels of repertory dance classes, work by dancers of Choreography for Dancers class, Dance 270, and an excerpt from a student independent study.
Dance 270 and Dance 312 were taught by the newest addition to the dance faculty, Griffin.
"I feel like my first year is like a dress rehearsal. I'm figuring out my space, my people, my resources," said Griffin. "It feels like the first big show on stage before the real show. I'm still getting to know the students and what the performing arts are for these students."
Griffin described the Dance 270 pieces as "works in progress," which "are a window into the creative process of dance. They are works that students have developed as compositional studies that show the range of choreographic interests of students."
The class performed two separate pieces. The first, "The Nature of Things" featured four dancers that performed separate choreographed works, focusing on different props. Although the "works in progress" were choreographed in silence, they are performed with live improvisational accompaniment.
"Figuratively Speaking" will follow, featuring senior Sam Howe's slam poetry, the piece tells the narrative of his work through choreography and dance of Natalie Johnson '13.
In addition to the choreography of members of Dance 270, the dance concert includes student choreography by Rakiya Orange '11 and Kathryn Savasuk '11. The piece, entitled "Optimist" is an excerpt from a full-length independent study, which will be performed April 27 and 28 on Pickard Stage.
Orange, Savasuk and Carolyn Trotman '11 brought exuberance to the stage with their very distinct personalities and dance techniques. The flowing red skirts of their costume and the fluid movement of the choreography provided for an aesthetically appealing and emotionally-inspiring performance.
"Spring Suite," the piece Griffin choreographed for the dancers of Dance 312, is a piece in three sections for nine dancers.
"It's the first time I've participated in one of the dance concerts, I just wanted to have a piece that felt welcoming," said Griffin. "This is a new rehearsal process with the rhythm and timing of the class structures and the stage rehearsals, so I picked music that really made me want to move."
The rhythmic counts of the Dave Brubeck Quartet pieces are unconventional, and according to Griffin, provided a challenge in musicality for the dancers.
"Ultimately, the rhythmic asymmetry gives the piece a swing that's uneven," Griffin added. "It's even a little sassy."
Although there were many separate motifs and sections, the choreography always returned to one particular swaying motif that tied the work together and gave it its consistently welcoming quality.
Senior Lecturer in Dance Paul Sarvis choreographed the Beginner's Repertory, Dance 112, class piece entitled, "18 Shortcuts."
"Usually what I do with rep classes is give them creative problem solving exercises and see what comes out of it. One sort of performance that I'm drawn to is that which offers some sort of cognitive challenge, which makes a game out of making meaning and engages the audience in that game," said Sarvis. "It is 18 very short scenes. It asks the audience to look at the connections and look at them retrospectively and perceptively. Within that I tried to push for contrast."
Clad in every-day clothing, the dancers of Dance 112 created 18 compelling narratives, ranging form humorous interactions, to suggested romantic toils. The black outs give the viewer a short time to process each section before the lights are turned on once again and the dancers tell a different tale. The piece is bound together by the thematic consistency of its first and last shorts, which explore emotional conflict and confrontation.
Choreographed by Lecturer in Dance Gwenyth Jones for Intermediate Repertory, "Django Dance" wraps up the program with an interactive experience. With thematic elements of theft and sneakiness, the piece was playful and entertaining. With one song left in the repertory of the piece, dancer Andrea Heaston '12 directly addresses the audience and teaches a short piece of choreography, which is integrated into the last section. Heaston's bubbly personality, which radiates from stage, along with the interactive nature of the piece gave "Djano Dance" extra charm.
Dance is certainly capping off its 40th year at Bowdoin with a dynamic, lively and varied group of pieces.
"I'm impressed with how much has happened in dance both curricular and extracurricular," said Griffin. "I admire the Bowdoin students who pursue their interests with a lot of dedication."
"That's something I can see in the dance groups as well as the classes," added Griffin. "I think the dance faculty has done an impressive job so far as creating a comprehensive look at dance with studio, technique, repertory and performance, creative and comprehensive, history and theory classes."
The Spring Dance Concert will run tonight and tomorrow night at 8 p.m. in Pickard Theater.
It is free and open to the public.
"There's really something for everyone in that," said Griffin.