“Rhythms of Hope” Expresses Struggle and Triumph

Dressed in floor-length white skirts, Emily Ewing ’14, Marion Kudla ’15 and Elizabeth McGonagle ’16 twirled across the stage in Tang Theater, using their high kicks to let the white material billow and fly around them. Backed by student jazz musicians, they executed their precise routine in front of vividly colored projections on the stage wall.

Dancers from Andover Dance Group (ADG), led by Erin Strong, Instructor and Chair in Theater and Dance, student jazz musicians, overseen by Peter Cirelli, Instructor and Chair in Music, and visual artists, overseen by Therese Zemlin, Instructor and Chair in Art, joined forces to provide audience members with “Rhythms of Hope.”

“Rhythms of Hope” was designed by Strong, Cirelli and Zemlin to travel to the Grahamstown National Arts Festival in South Africa this summer. The trio hoped to allude to South Africa’s complex history of apartheid and the concept of being together but unequal. To do so, the show was split into three movements: “Origins,” “Oppression” and “Hope.” The three movements illustrated the progression from struggle to joy in the thematic narrative of the show.

During “Oppression,” the visual artists joined a group of dancers onstage to wrap a long white ribbon covered with hateful messages around Landay. The artists hurled insults, such as “You’re disgusting” or “You’re a loser,” while walking offstage, leaving Landay alone and vulnerable. The musicians played jumbled, discordant notes on their instruments, highlighting the tension between the harassers and Landay.

Despite the insults, Landay began to dance. Starting off with slow walks and simple arm movements, she eventually kicked away the ribbon and executed pristine jumps and kicks, taking power over her oppressors.

While the show was not produced specifically for the Coed@40 weekend, it explored many similar themes.

“Coed@40 is about a merger of the two campuses, bringing the male and female students into one realm. ‘Rhythms of Hope’ touches on gender and expands the idea of together-and-equal to include issues of race, geography, history and culture,” said Zemlin.

In addition to performing at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival this summer in South Africa, students and faculty involved in “Rhythms of Hope” will be visiting the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, located south of Johannesburg, South Africa.