Slow and fast, lively and meditative, the December Dance Concert showcased a wide range of approaches to movement last night in Pickard Theater. The concert is the culmination of the repertory dance courses offered in the fall semester, including Ballet, Modern, and African American Diasporic Dance.
Natalie Johnson ’13, a veteran dancer at Bowdoin, having participated in all but one of the semester-end dance shows since she matriculated. “The classes themselves are not crazy [busy] at first. It’s more about learning how to learn something with your body. You start forming a kinesthetic intelligence.”
By the end of the semester, though, all repertory classes are rehearsing intensely in preparation for the concert. Johnson says that although this may be tiring, performing in front of an audience is energizing.
The evening started off with the sound of hand drums emanating from the pitch-black stage. Performers then entered in a single file line while singing a traditional West African song, Funga Alafia. According to the program, this is the first part of a five-section performance called “Diggin’ the Roots,” which displays African influences on American dance. The other sections exhibit dances originating from New Orleans, Harlem, and the Cakewalk dance of the 1800s.
The variety of choreography and music is striking, and offers a valuable insight into dance history.
“I wonder where they got all the energy. They were moving so fast, and all in sync,” said Brunswick resident Nancy Desjardins, who attended the performance.
Next came a preview of Johnson’s independent study “Pillow Talk with Dionysus,” a controlled, soundless performance that requires absolute focus.
“This is a mental breakthrough for me this time around, but there has definitely been a build up from [my other choreographing experiences],” said Johnson.
Cece Howard ’13, who dances with student hip hop group Obvious in “Diggin’ the Roots,” said that choreography often reveals the creator’s personality.
“I think that ‘Boxed In’ showed off [Senior Lecturer in Dance] Gwyneth Jones’ personality, which is fun and bouncy,” Howard said.
The ballet piece “Arid Spaces” evokes a different mood altogether. It features twelve ballet dancers working seamlessly on an open, barren stage.
Artist-in-Residence and pianist George Lopez contributed a jarring and sometimes frenzied accompaniment to this unconventional piece. Lopez
“It was entertaining from beginning to end. It was very professionally done,” said Desjardins.
Ivy Xing ’15 said that this year’s performance was more energetic than previous years.
“Last year’s concert was more smooth, and this year it’s more exhilarating,” Xing said.
“I think there’s something in this show for every taste,” said Johnson. “We have a fabulous faculty. It’s small but star-studded, and throughout my time at Bowdoin I’ve felt that the department is gathering momentum.”
Although Bowdoin currently offers only a minor in Dance, a diversity of approaches was apparent at the concert. Beyond taking academic dance courses, students can also join any of the dance clubs on campus.
Howard, for example, was inspired to join Obvious after seeing the performances of friends of her older sister, Margot Howard ’13.
“It’s so much fun rehearsing with Obvious. I’ve never felt pressured, and anyone can join,” she said.
The concert offers a glimpse into an expressive corner of College culture that combines academics and independent passions. Most students will be able to recognize at least a few faces onstage, and the concert is worth experiencing almost for the novelty of seeing such a different of part of life on campus alone.
Performances of the December Dance Concert will run tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m. in Pickard Theater.