Being Moved Moves Audience

Can you imagine transforming your movements into a set of connecting points and lines? Or choreographing an entire routine of dance moves to a tune, but having to create them without any music whatsoever? Dance 400, along with the Andover Dance Group, has been doing just that all year. In their performance titled “Being Moved,” which went up on March 5th and 6th, they showed the PA community the fruits of their labors. Though the production is conventionally the grand finale to the Dance 400 curriculum, most of this year’s performers were from the Andover Dance Group. Dance Department Head Judith Wombwell admitted that the show was “billed by tradition.” This year marks the first year that a group outside of Dance 400 was incorporated into the presentation. This was partly due to limited enrollment in the class: there were only three students (all of whom performed). The change also aimed to initiate the transition of the show into the hands of the Andover Dance Group. Ms. Wombwell attributes the switch to the rigor of the Dance 400 course, and the difficulty of having a large recital to prepare for in addition to the course’s other demands. “It will open up Dance 400 to people who want to explore dance without the pressure,” she said. In comparison to Dance 400, the members of the Andover Dance Group the play. The current group practices six days a week for an hour and a half a day, and are trained by Ms. Wombwell and Instructor of Dance Anne Zuerner solely for performances such as this one. Ms. Wombwell and Ms. Zuerner were the main choreographers for the show along with guest artist Daniel McCusker, though in some pieces students choreographed their own moves. Each segment was created by a different group of students and choreographers. The theme of the program for “Being Moved” was the same as the theme for this year’s Dance 400 course: improvisation. A key focus of the choreography was on the body’s reaction to a given idea, as opposed to the body’s reaction to a melody. Therefore, many of the pieces were first created without music, then later fine-tuned by the dancers with the music afterwards. As unstructured a business as that may sound, the students of Dance 400 used specific improvisational systems and cultural ideas to help guide their motions for several pieces that appeared in the show. The primary influences of the show were the religion “Candomble” and the improvisational system of William Forsythe. In Candomble dancing, the dancer must dance until his or her certain gods, or “Orixas,” take the body, at which point it is generally considered that the dancer is at their creative maximum. Forsythe’s method takes on a more geometric approach, in which the dancer must envision his or her movements in relation to the body as a set of points, lines, and other such shapes. Though the two techniques differ significantly, Ms. Zuerner said, “The ultimate goal of both of them is to let go and give up to their type of movement.” But the students of the Andover Dance Group did not use those methods to improvise for their pieces. They had opportunities to create small parts of all their segments, but they did so the most during “Outside/In,” a piece that was choreographed with the help of Mr. McCusker and his more thought-oriented techniques. For example, one of his methods was to bring in poems in which students would have to create moves for certain words. “That was the one where we really got to choreograph,” said Genevieve Clark ’08, a member of the Andover Dance Group. The final product of all this creativity was rather intriguing. The dancers easily switched from the sharp and jerky movements of pieces such as “Potential Configurations” to the more free and peaceful feel of pieces such as “Mother, Sister, Daughter, Friend” without any noticeable mistakes. These transitions were accomplished by the remarkable lighting and costume design that was unique to each dance piece. Also, having readings of selected Dance 400 material between segments, although they were somewhat awkward at times, helped to further ease the transitions. Though Ms. Wombwell and Ms. Zuerner insist that there is a little bit of improvisation involved in every year’s performance, it was apparent that the amount of it this year brought the performance to another level, creatively speaking. After the production, Ms. Wombwell said, “This was art. No vocab. That is what made the show exciting…just to put yourself out there is what it’s all about.”