From Nov. 2 – 5, in the new ATLAS building on campus, the MFA dance concert, “In The Event of an Absence,” will combine modern dance with modern technology.
The dance concert includes three performance pieces by dance grad students Angela Nina and Leslie Merrill.
The first piece, “Remote Viewing 1&11: Before Breakfast,” choreographed and directed by Nina, is the longest and most abstract of the dances. The set is black, grey and white, with plastic body parts and large clear plastic sheets everywhere. There is also a projector screen on the stage which plays a video at the beginning of the show. The costumes are creative: vinyl hoop skirts, shirts that look like they are taped to the dancers’ skin, wire coming out of gloves or to decorate faces, black dresses that are so tight they bend the dancers so that they can hardly move, and striped leggings. One dancer also wears a purple wig and looks like a mannequin.
Trying to discern a message from the first dance piece is brain-shattering, but the dance is certainly memorable and interesting to watch.
“I don’t think you can analyze that performance for meaning outside of the movement,” senior intergrative physiology and psychology major Jessica Larson said. “I think modern dance is about showing an audience a certain style and mood with movement, and what they get out of watching is meaningful and is beautiful without tearing it apart. It is just like looking at an abstract painting.”
The stage in the ATLAS building allows the audience to sit down at the level of the dancers. Audience members are surrounded by dancers; sound and lighting effects make it feel as though the audience is actually part of the setting.
“I really like the new ATLAS building. I think the coffee shop and the theater are really cool,” said Ryan McDonald, a sophomore environmental design major.
The stage and the seating are completely re-arranged during intermission giving the second half of the show a completely new setting and feel.
After intermission, “Excavating Persephone,” directed and choreographed by Merrill, begins with two female dancers taped down to chairs.
Everything on stage is red, even the costumes, and volunteers are asked to participate. This dance utilizes the technology available in the ATLAS building best out of the three. Four different projection screens surround the stage and constantly display movies or pictures to add to the dance.
“Excavating Persephone” is especially unique because of the audience interaction, and also because very little music is played for the piece. The dancers create sound on their own, or they dance to words being spoken rather than sung. There is some music, but it does not stand out as much as the sounds the dancers create by scraping silverware together or breathing.
The last dance in the series, also directed and choreographed by Merrill, is “Breeding Familiarity.” This is the most upbeat dance of the three, and though the others do have comical aspects, “Breeding Familiarity” has the audience smiling the whole way through. The three dancers wear brightly colored shirts under vests, which is a change from the other monochromatic color schemes of the first two dances. Dancers interact with each other, the upbeat music and with the twelve chairs placed in a circle around them.
“I liked all the different dances, but the final one was the one I will remember most because I enjoyed watching it and it made me laugh,” senior theatre major Kristen Case said. “The others were good, too, but certain aspects were somewhat creepy in them. I think I prefer the funny one.”
The combination of technology and dance for this performance is effective in creating an intriguing atmosphere for the different pieces. The costumes, sets, sounds and lights make the dances what they are-the shows would not be as brilliant without the beautiful stage and technology that the ATLAS building provides.