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Dance, ‘here and now’

December 19, 2011

The emphasis of “Contemporary Voices,” the annual faculty/guest artist concert presented on the IU Bloomington campus this January by the IU Dance Theatre, is on “contemporary,” in no uncertain terms.

A couple clad only in white underwear dancing with nothing but a mattress. Six college students in their PJs performing on and around a couch. An inflatable sky dancer (like the ones flapping at car dealerships). Original works by IU faculty members using intricate, high-tech embellishments and audience participation. Turning from its traditional nod to pioneers and masters of contemporary dance, this concert features works created only in the past decade.

“The historical works are absolutely important,” says Elizabeth Shea, director of the Contemporary Dance Program at the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. But, she adds, “it’s critical for our students and audiences to see what’s happening now — right now. The trends. We wanted to bring a ‘here and now’ approach to this concert, and all the works reflect this.”

“Straight Duet” is part of a suite of dances choreographed by Larry Keigwin and Nicole Wolcott, of the New York-based Keigwin and Co. dance company. Keigwin successfully bridges postmodern art and popular entertainment dance forms, according to Selene Carter, lecturer and dance historian in the School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation at IU Bloomington.

“‘Straight Duet’ is funny, poignant, sexy, and sad,” Carter says. “It has a lot of dimensions.”

Dancers in Selene Carter’s own work, “Take the Call,” will improvise throughout, creating something new at each performance. Communicating through verbal calls, the ensemble might even be directed by audience members, who will be encouraged to take up some of the calls.

“I really want to break the barrier between audience and dancers with this piece, allowing the audience perceptions to merge with the dancers’ perceptions,” Carter says.

In “Night Music” by Detroit-based Laurie Eisenhower, IU dancers make good use of a couch in their performance. Ben Munisteri created “Muse of Fire.” Influenced by hip-hop clubs in New York, he brings a techno edge to his works.

Elizabeth Shea will premiere “Between the Sun and the Moon,” a solo piece involving the combination of video and motion-capture technology brought to the screen by visual artist Xiaoyuan Zhu, an IU fine arts graduate student. The performance requires three projectors to display images on the Cyclorama, which is the traditional backdrop for theater and dance lighting, and also on a front scrim, a somewhat invisible screen that will feature the motion-capture material. Shea notes that the scrim is between the dancer and the audience, with the dancer behind the screen and the projections, giving her performance an enhanced 3-D quality.

The work is Shea’s capstone to her fellowship with the IU Institute for Digital Arts and Humanities at IU Bloomington. Her work was funded by an IU Collaborative Research and Creative Activity Award from the Office of the Vice President for Research.  She also will premiere “Lucy’s Bones,” a meditation on community that was inspired by the 3.2 million-year-old skeletal remains nicknamed Lucy and involves “a bit of creative storytelling that binds the past and the present.”

Selene Carter notes that the ambiance at the annual concerts is hardly the staid atmosphere of a classical ballet; instead, Carter says, it’s  “celebratory, kinesthetic and vibrant.”

The annual concert also included new works by Iris Rosa, director of the African American Dance Company, and George Pinney, professor and head of musical theatre in the Department of Theatre and Drama. Pinney’s “Stop” focuses on bullying. Ben Wegman, a guest artist-in-residence at the School of HPER, presented the work involving the inflatable sky dancer.

Wegman performed with the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange and in “Ferocious Beauty: Genome,” the company’s multimedia modern dance performance seen at IU Auditorium in 2009. He continues to perform professionally as he works with IU’s dance majors.

“It’s great to have him,” Shea says. “I can already see the effect of his knowledge and his ‘here and now’ contemporary experience on the students. We placed his work before intermission because it encourages conversations.”


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