Students and faculty used movement this weekend to make a point.
DanceWorks, the Dance and Theater Department’s semi-annual showcase, was presented last Thursday, Friday and Saturday in Betts Theater, on the first floor of the Marvin Center. Performances featured modern choreography by faculty, students and guest artists, like New York-based Heather McArdle.
McArdle was invited by department faculty for her commitment to risk-taking work, realized in “Strategies and Recommendations,” which she first developed with students at Barnard College. The work addresses the concept of displacement – whether as a victim of tsunami, hurricane or gentrification.
McArdle said she dealt with displacement when condominium development forced her out of her former Brooklyn performance loft.
“It’s happening a lot to my friends,” she said of gentrification experienced by New York artists. “I never thought that as an artist or citizen I would be displaced.”
The focus of McArdle’s work is not limited to artists’ displacement. “Strategies and Recommendations” also addresses displacement experienced by victims of natural disaster, realized in moments of choreography that emphasize falling and being carried.
“That references the workout that people had to experience in the moment they were displaced,” she said.
McArdle developed the soundtrack of her work – with the introduction comparable to beginning of a hurricane – and costumed her dancers in khaki pants and cardigans.
“You could wear those clothes out anywhere,” she said, emphasizing her aim to keep performers in light colors and simultaneously, to remind audience members of the accessibility of the performers – and the conflict they address.
Other performances varied in topic, with commentaries ranging in focus from the natural environment to paper-pushing.
Resident faculty choreographer Maida Withers presented “Rising Tide,” highlighting an aquatic theme with ambient music and through costume – for example, dancers donned costumes constructed of plastic water bottles.
The student-choreographed work, “Book 6,” drew inspiration from a poem by Elizabeth Acevedo, a junior at the University known for creating a performance art major. Student choreographers Courtney Coughlin, Kadie Del Sordo, Jennifer Sansone and Rick Wasterkamp addressed Acevedo’s themes of fate, death and human power through movement seamlessly, while remaining accessible for viewers.
“Ruin/Humanergy” was the most complicated work of the show, presenting elaborate patterns of movement. Choreographed by visiting faculty member Anthony Gongora, dancers performing in “Ruin/Humanergy” moved to the background of multimedia projections of ancient ruins and the lyrics of the children’s song “Ring Around the Rosie.”
DanceWorks finished with “Ode to the Weight of Paper,” by Kristen Pepin, a senior and Presidential scholar in the arts. Her choreography, with intense emphasis on synchronized timing, constructed a satire of paper-pushing in the job market – with sheets of paper littering the stage.
McArdle discussed the success of her own work, one that could be applied to others showcased. “The only thing that made the piece work: Looking out for each other,” she said.