Arts & Culture / Dance / Mosaic / May 21, 2008

“Journeys” explores meaning within dance

Though it is almost always entertaining to watch dancers move together in the same space on a stage, the choreographers featured in “Journeys” added another level of emotional depth to their pieces. As the main stage dance production at Knox College, “Journeys” incorporates the work of Knox faculty, students, and a professional dance company into their show, which will be performed today, Friday, and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

“I feel like this show in particular is very emotional,” said Megan Hall, a senior and choreographer for the show. “The dances have real solid ideas behind them.”

Hall was inspired to choreograph her dance by several different relationships she has had over the past few years, including those with her best friends and her mother. Each of the four dancers have their own character, which include a character who is always dependent on others, an angst-ridden teenager, a manipulator, and a nurturing character. A version of the dance was performed earlier this year and Hall said some audience members were brought to tears.

“[The dance] causes conflict and it is resolved at the end,” said Hall.

Associate Professor of Theater and Dance Jennifer Smith choreographed a piece that deals with the idea of caretaking. It required the dancers to do some research for the show. They visited the Gordon Barrent Senior Center several times and did movement workshops with people who have dementia. The dancers also learned about the seniors’ lives through talking with them.

“These women have lost a lot of their functioning,” said Hall, noting that regardless of their difficulties, many carried around baby dolls and treated the dancers as their own daughters. “The caretaking instinct has never left them.”

Smith said the piece deals with how the role of caretaker evolves over time.

“We are fortunate to have people taking care of us as children,” said Smith. “Those same people may need us to take care of them.”

This is a personal piece for Smith because it has some autobiographical elements. She is experiencing taking care of both her children and older adults in her life at the same time.

“It was a really challenging piece to do mentally,” said Smith. “Caretaking is one of those things that just changes your life.”

In all, Smith choreographed three pieces for the show. One is a solo dance and another is a video piece which was filmed partially in France. In addition to a choreographed dance, footage of improvisational dancing in front of a French fountain and railroad tracks in Galesburg are incorporated into the film. It will be projected on a large screen.

“It’s something new for the dance world,” said Hall.

Associate Professor of Theater and Dance Kathleen Ridlon is also experimenting with the dance space by performing a piece with a seven piece jazz ensemble also on the stage. She explored how the dancers and musicians interact through both construction and improvisation.

“It’s a really cool opportunity for faculty to collaborate,” said Ridlon. “That was a journey for me as a choreographer.”

In addition to the pieces choreographed by Knox students and faculty members, there will be an acrobatic piece that was choreographed by Tracy Von Kaenel of the Chicago-based dance troupe AMEBA. The student dancers were first introduced to AMEBA dance earlier this year when the dancers did a weeklong residency at Knox. The dance program brings a professional dance organization on campus every year.

“This gives Knox students an opportunity to work with a professional dance troupe,” said Ridlon. “It allows some diversity. Students get to try out new things.”

“AMEBA’s dance is fast-pace,” said senior Terpsichore president Jessica Strache, a dancer and choreographer for the show. “It’s really high energy.”

In contrast, Strache describes her piece as “intense.” She has worked on her dance since this past fall and added another song to it since the last time it was performed. She hopes the addition will help make the message her dance is trying to convey clear to the audience.

“Its about something, it’s not just a dance,” said Strache. “Out of all the work I’ve done at Knox, I’ve finally done something I’m proud of.”

“Journeys” also collaborated with the theater department to add costumes and lighting to the show. The choreographers worked with several theater majors and faculty members in order to create their shows. Hall said the lighting in her piece is like candle light and creates the illusion of times that have past.

“The elements of design gave it some antiquity,” said Hall. “It can take your piece to a whole new level.”

In addition to Hall and Strache, senior Natasha Robin also choreographed a piece for the show. The dances are longer than the ones usually seen during the Terpsichore shows.

“It should be a good show,” said Strache.

Laura Miller

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