Arts & Culture / Dance / Mosaic / April 15, 2010

Ready At Will in SMC

The Umbeck Science and Mathematics Center (SMC) is perhaps most notable for synthesizing chemical compounds, creating strange new gadgets, sequencing DNA and solving complex math proofs. However, when the Ready at Will Dance Collective (RAW Dance) arrives at Knox this Sunday evening, SMC will have an entirely new purpose: hosting a dance performance.

RAW Dance is a contemporary dance company that creates site-specific dance works, choreographing their pieces only after arriving on location. Those performances rarely, if ever, take place on a traditional stage. When RAW Dance first came to the attention of students and professors at Knox, they were performing a site-specific work in a warehouse.

“We were all just blown away by the group,” said Associate Professor of Dance Jennifer Smith, who saw the performance with a group of Knox students this past summer while performing as a part of the Minneapolis Fringe Festival. “They basically created an evening-like piece in what was kind of a rehabbed old warehouse in an area of Minneapolis they’re trying to revive. It was a performance that stuck with us.”

“It was things I’ve never seen before, things I never imagined you could do in a space like that,” said sophomore Rachel Lyman, who also witnessed the performance. The group incorporated every aspect of the warehouse into their performance, even dancing in bathroom stalls. At one point, Lyman said, there was a peephole in the floor. Looking through it revealed a dancer performing on the floor beneath the audience.

RAW Dance will be bringing four members of their company to Knox this upcoming week as part of the yearly dance residency hosted as a joint effort between the Department of Theatre and Dance and the Terpsichore Dance Collective. They will be holding daily classes open to the entire campus, but their main effort will be working with a group of students to create a site-specific work in SMC.

“They’re going to create a piece in the intricate places of SMC,” said Smith. “Part of the thing they’re interested in is not necessarily manipulating their environment but working in a natural environment — we have a hallway, what movement works in this hallway I’ve been given? They won’t need crazy lighting. It’s all about what the natural environment presents to them.”

Smith feels RAW Dance is particularly qualified to do such a piece in this particular building because of their unique approach to dance.

“This group is really interested in the science and psychology of music,” said Smith, explaining the group has all been trained extensively in anatomy and places a special emphasis on understanding the science of moment.

“We always see this huge divide between the sciences and the arts…this group is about bridging this gap,” said Smith. “What better to create a piece that utilizes the intricate spaces of that building?”

RAW Dance, which will have never seen SMC prior to their arrival on campus, will be performing — and creating — in collaboration with some 12 to 20 Knox students.

“It’s going to be a collaborative experience,” said Smith. “If you get involved in it, you’re going to be creating, you’re going to be exploring with them. They’re not just going to say, five, six, seven, eight, get your leg in the air or something. What gets generated is going to depend on who’s involved.”

Although the department always works hard to schedule a residency that is both unique and beneficial to students, Smith considered RAW Dance to be particularly relevant considering the current economy.

“[With] the harsh reality in funding…many performing groups are having to re-think what it means to perform,” said Smith.

Smith hopes that re-thinking performance will be beneficial to not only the dancers but the audience as well.

“I’ve never been interested in just creating pretty pictures,” Smith said. “I want to create a deeper sense of self through dance training, but that’s not always clear to the audience. My hope is that the audience has a different type of performance experience.”

If you are interested in being one of the dancers involved in creating the SMC performance piece, contact Jennifer Smith at

Katy Sutcliffe

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