Clad in a dirtied peasant dress with a scarlet blindfold over her eyes, Uanne Chang ’20 was poised alone at the front of the dimly lit studio. As the music swelled ominously, a writhing wave of bodies emerged from the back corner: her fellow dancers, crouching low to the ground and jerking erratically, approached her from behind. They surged up behind her, grabbing onto her wrists and ankles, before lifting her skywards with her arms stretched out as if on a cross.
Sophie Liu ’20, one of the dancers, said, “A lot of the group pieces have pretty tricky timing sometimes with the music. We have about ten people on stage at the same time, and we all have to move at the same time at some places, or listen to a little switch in the music and all follow that lead. The coordination with the group and all moving as one to create this full image was challenging.”
This dance sequence was part of “Myopia,” choreographed by Alice Tang ’18 and performed last Friday night at the Modern Dance Studio. With sections featuring the entire ensemble, duets, and solos, “Myopia” was the culmination of Tang’s Theatre-902 choreography course.
“I started working on [the show] at the beginning of Winter Term. It’s a modern contemporary dance, and I was inspired by this movie that I watched years ago called “The Village.” “The Village” is about a group of people who are in their own little insular community, and this one girl started [stepping] out of [the] community, [breaking] the rules and realizes the truth of what’s going on around her. I was inspired by that story of stepping out of traditionally defined boundaries, and the start of rebellion or resistance,” said Tang.
According to the program, the main concept of “Myopia” was the exploration of fear and resistance. Used to describe a condition of nearsightedness, the term refers to conditions that restrict people’s worldviews. The dance show highlighted its theme with the use of dark musical pieces, such as “The Gravel Road” by James Newton Howard, and dim lighting.
Melanie Cheung ’20, another performer in the show, said, “The concept that Alice has come up with — I really love it. I think it has ‘Allegory of the Cave’ vibes, which I enjoy. Overall, I love how the pieces connect and how conceptual the show is.”
With years of dancing experience, Tang found herself curious to explore the world of choreography. “Myopia” was Tang’s first endeavour as a choreographer and director.
“I used to dance before I came to Andover, but I never really had much choreography experience. [After] taking Ms. Strong’s [choreography] class [Junior Year] and then doing a couple of Dance Open shows, I really wanted to take some time and develop my ideas fully, because it was something I was really passionate about,” said Tang.
Theatre-902 is an independent, one-term theater project with a focus on choreography. Students submit an application and work with an advisor to come up with a finished product. This past term, Tang worked with her advisor Judith Wombwell, Chair of the Theatre and Dance Department, in order to create “Myopia.”
“As [Tang’s] advisor, I really wanted to make sure she could realise her vision, and I knew that she was really excited about this project. I just needed to support her and keep her on a realistic timeline. I did encourage her and give her some ideas, but she had already generated really clear, strong ideas. I just [needed] to give her advice along the way,” said Wombwell.
Tang worked throughout the winter honing her skills as a choreographer and learning how to work through challenges that arose during the process. According to Wombwell, as well as achieving her goals in making a finished project, she grew not only as a strict choreographer, plotting each swing of an arm, but as an artist, accomplishing her vision from start to finish.
“I’ve known Alice for four years. I’ve mainly worked with her as a performer, so I would choreograph something and she would perform. She’s just grown; it’s a privilege to work with someone over a long period of time and see them basically grow up. [You] see their intellectual and emotional ideas start to be integrated into their dance technique. I think she’s done an amazing job [with the show],” said Wombwell.