“Larks and Leaves”: Andover Dance Group Portrays Varying Themes with Double Entendres

Andover Dance Group’s “Larks and Leaves” performance this past weekend explored new movements, while also serving as the final performance for the group’s Seniors.

Golden, artificial sunlight shifted to an overcast haze as Emerson Judson ’20 spiraled around the stage, spotlights trailing behind her. As the delicate melody from band Sigur Rós escalates, Judson fought against images of makeup and female models in her solo piece, titled “Beauty.”

“For me, my solo was about the concepts of beauty, and how a lot of people perceive beauty as wearing makeup and concealing who they are underneath…A lot of it was the fabric holding me back, and the projections of the makeup in front of me. And in the end, I stripped that all away. It’s supposed to [represent] natural beauty,” said Judson.

“Beauty” was a portion of the Andover Dance Group’s [A.D.G.] year-end show, titled “Larks and Leaves,” held this past Friday and Saturday night in Tang Theatre. A.D.G. performed five pieces, choreographed by Judith Wombwell, Instructor and Chair of Theater and Dance, and Kareem Lewis, Instructor in Theater and Dance. According to Wombwell, the show held a variety of meanings and themes, even within the title itself.

“I thought it was great because both of [the words in the title] have a double entendre… I thought about the phrase, ‘It’s a lark,’ being youthful, having exuberance…The leaves [mean that] we are all about to do leave-taking, as the Seniors graduate…[The title’s words] both have double meanings, ‘lark’ as in the bird, or in having fun, and ‘leaves’ as in leaves falling, and taking a leave,” said Wombwell.

In the duet piece “Shed,” A.D.G. Co-Captain Emily Jackson ’19 and Yishu Chen ’19 danced as one entity, sharing one long white dress that stretches across the stage. When Jackson dropped to the ground, Chen, unable to continue dancing, stripped off her half of the dress and walks away. The music diminishes to resounding thumps as Jackson gradually recovered consciousness and attempts to dance alone.

“I saw Ms. Wombwell and her daughter [perform ‘Shed’], and now it’s Emily and me, carrying on the legacy, almost. It’s really an emotional piece about connecting everything. Emily and I have done so many duets together, and this is one of our last. The dance itself is about moving forward and also leaving behind something, which is what we’re in right now,” said Chen.

Audience member Rhea Prem ’19 discovered that the title, and the performance in general, made her think about dance and its meanings in a manner that she had not experienced before. Multiple dancers expressed that this was the intended effect of the show.

“[‘Larks and Leaves’] was definitely really different from a lot of the shows I’ve been to because it was very thought-provoking. After each piece, I definitely had to think about what it meant, the concept, the title, the theme of the show…Leaves always make me think of fall, things passing. It almost made me feel nostalgic, in a way. I’m not sure if that’s what [Wombwell] intended, but that’s…what I took from it,” said Prem.

The performance involved pieces that stray beyond the boundaries of typical dance. According to A.D.G. Co-Captain Michelle Jeon ’19, the group experimented with new movements and patterns that had never been previously explored.

“In ‘Grass,’ we did some pretty weird movements, things that I’ve never done before, like shaking our chests, letting everything go, which is not something you typically see at the Boston Ballet. I think this performance really challenged both us and the viewers about their idea of dance and what it can look like,” said Jeon.

According to audience member Somin Virmani ’22, there existed an aura in “Larks and Leaves,” that differed from many of the other dance performances. The varying concepts that were portrayed was one aspect that added to the show’s unique perception.

“I thought it’d be like any other dance show on campus, and I’ve been to a lot of them, like Dance Open, and I’ve performed in Dance Open and Dance Labs too. But this just had a completely different vibe and I feel like it was so real. And it wasn’t just ‘Oh, we’re going to dance and just have this one idea,’ but no, there were all these different themes,” said Virmani.

The curtains rise to showcase the entire cast, dressed in suits, joining in for the final movement, “Kashmir.” Accompanied by Led Zeppelin’s drums, the performers throw down their jackets and dissipate along with the blaring music, dancing as groups that form into larger entities. Near the end, the Seniors pick up their jackets and leave the stage, which holds symbolic meaning, according to Wombwell.

“It’s only Seniors that walk off together. You know when sometimes you’re cold, and somebody lends you a jacket? I wanted it to feel like that. You’re taking care of your friend on your way out,” said Wombwell.