Arts & Culture / Mosaic / October 27, 2013

Terp’s informal fall performance avoids conventionality

Knox’s Terpischore Dance Collective brought its improvisational piece “Driftings, a Traveling Performance” to life on Oct. 26 as their first performance of the year. Terp performers created a refreshingly unconventional act as they employed their surroundings, climbing tables, toppling chairs and disrupting the campus’s ordinary Saturday afternoon. The performance took place in several campus locations, with the group of dancers gesturing audience members to follow their lead.

Junior Abby Kravis and freshman Mary Blair dance on the windows of CFA during Terpsichore's "driftings, a traveling performance" Saturday, Oct. 26. (Michelle Orr/TKS)

Junior Abby Kravis and freshman Mary Blair dance on the windows of CFA during Terpsichore’s “driftings, a traveling performance” Saturday, Oct. 26. (Michelle Orr/TKS)

“Driftings” began in the lower level of Williston Residence Hall. As audience members crowded around the perimeter of the room, dancers began energetically climbing about cubicle desks and thrusting sheets of paper into the air. A second group of dancers then beckoned the audience to follow, leading them to an equally wild performance in the Common Room of Old Main.

Associate Professor and chair of the Dance Program, Jennifer Smith, and her two young daughters, Amber Choma, 10 and Autumn Choma, 7, joined the performance as it was led to an isolated park bench on campus. The bench was tossed about and dancers giggled playfully as they enjoyed the limitless space of the outdoors.

The finale led way into the Ford Center for Fine Arts (CFA), with a dancer lying on her stomach atop the building’s roof as she watched the audience enter. The group filed into the women’s restroom, where performers began toying with sinks, hand dryers and bathroom stalls. As many viewers were crammed behind the stalls, their imagination was left only with the curious sounds of the dancers and their occasional dialogue.

“All I could hear were noises — I didn’t have to rely on visuals,” said audience member and senior Alyssa Kennamer. Kennamer enjoyed the flexibility as a non-stationary audience member, allowing her to view the performance from several angles.

The various sites utilized were one of the few planned elements of Terp’s fall show. Initially, the dancers experimented with a number of sites on campus, eventually segregating themselves into groups based upon which places sparked their interest.

Terp expressed satisfaction with the process as well as the final product.

“I expected more difficulties than there actually were,” said Terp President and senior Evelyn Langley.

Performers rehearsed regularly, but these rehearsals, as well as the final production, were improvised.

“We got to play with the rules and when you do that, wonderful things arise,” said Langley.

The group of 20 to 25 viewers was a pleasant surprise for Terp members, who had expected a much smaller turnout.

Terpischore’s usual performance site, Harbach Theatre, is in high demand amongst performing groups on campus.

“We’re recognizing that our resources in the arts are scarce,” said Smith, who also serves as Terp’s faculty adviser. “We’re having to think outside of the box.”

However, Smith feels that students should not be discouraged by these prospects. She explained that she has been encouraging students in the dance department to explore less conventional performance sites.

“Performance does not have to occur on a proscenium stage,” she said. In the event that a performance lacks technical lighting and extravagant costumes, Smith wants students to understand that “it’s not less than, it’s more.”

Knox students have experimented with site-specific dance in the past, where dancers improvise their movement on site. In 2010, students joined the Ready at Will Dance Company (RAW Dance), who specialize in improvised dance pieces. Together, the dancers brought art to life in various locations throughout the Umbeck Science and Mathematics Center.

Terp hopes to work more with site-specific dance in the future, along with the encouragement of their faculty adviser. “I hope this is not just a one off,” Smith said.

Erica Baumgardner

Tags:  Alyssa Kennamer center for fine arts driftings improv site specific terp williston

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