Contemporary Dance prepares for winter concert
Posted: Sunday, January 10, 2016 12:00 am
Winter break for college students often means a chance to forget about school, reunite with friends and family and take it easy for three weeks. But students in IU’s Contemporary Dance Theatre must return early from break in order to prepare for “Leading Edges,” the group’s winter dance concert.
Campus was quiet Thursday when the dance students returned to run through the pieces that will be performed Friday through Jan. 17. The show will feature premiere choreography by IU faculty Selene Carter, Nya McCarthy Brown and Elizabeth Shea. The troupe will also perform pieces by guest artists Kyle Abraham and Angie Houser.
“We try and curate different approaches and different genres to our guest work,” said Shea, director of the IU Contemporary Dance Program.
As students progress through the four-year program, Shea tries to expose the students to a wide range of dance from contemporary ballet to regional artists to post-modern works.
“We really try and mix it up so our students have opportunities,” Shea said.
Rehearsals for the nine pieces choreographed for the shows began at the start of the fall semester. During the semester, the dancers were visited by Houser, a BESSIE award winner who collaborated with the undergraduate students to create “Undertakings in Three Parts.”
“It was fast, and it was furious,” Shea said. “That’s a unique experience.”
“Radio Show” by guest artist Abraham is inspired by the loss of black-oriented radio in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. Jeremy “Jae” Neal, a member of the Abraham.in.Motion company, also visited IU to teach the work to students. Shea used a funding award received from the IU Institute for Advanced Study to help bring the guest artists to campus.
Working with guest artists can be an important part of a student’s career path. Shea said the guest artists can help mimic for students what a professional environment is like. It can also be an inspiration to students to see what is possible in their dance futures.
“It’s really seeing that next level up,” Shea said.
Dance is a physical art that requires focus and commitment. Having students experience the artistry from various types of dance is also important.
“It builds their resumes. It provides connections,” Shea said.
The show also gives IU professionals a chance to showcase their works. The dancers will perform “Flawed” by Shea. The piece will be performed to music by Don Freund, music composition professor at IU’s Jacob’s School of Music. Original works by Iris Rosa, director of the African American Dance Company as well as works by dance faculty Stephanie Nugent and George Pinney will also be performed.
One of the pieces that will only be performed in Saturday’s matinee features a cast of freshmen. Shea said freshmen aren’t typically cast for the winter concert. While that may be a difficult position for the young dancers, as they mature, they come to see how much they needed to learn in their first year.
“You have to wait a little bit. You have to be patient,” Shea said.
For freshmen who make it through to their junior and senior year, they have a better understand of dance as an art form — something they may not have been introduced to while in high school. Looking at dance as art is a whole new perspective for many students.
The students also get a chance to “build their instrument.”
“It’s not just about what the body can do. It’s what you know,” Shea said.
Shea was also awed by the commitment of the non-performers, including those working in costume and lighting design. Both are important components for the show, and those students also had to return to campus early to help with rehearsals.
Before classes start, rehearsals run from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. When the spring semester opens Monday, dancers will work from 5 to 11 p.m. every night until the show opens.
The students work really hard before the Christmas break to be ready for a show that opens the first week students are back for the spring semester.
“It’s so tough. It’s tough on them and their bodies,” Shea said. “Fortunately, we really get them ready before they leave.”
Shea said a little bit of rest is actually good for the dancers. In their first rehearsal after break, it was important to be careful and ease dancers back into performing to prevent injury. She said the 2014 concert had to deal with injuries after break.
The show will feature more than 50 IU students — a group that Shea praised for their “talent, beauty and commitment.” While the arts are often competitive, Shea said contemporary dance leaves a lot of room for individual expression, which takes the edge off competition.
“We’re a community. We’re a family,” she said.
If you go
WHAT: “Leading Edges.”
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Jan. 17.
WHERE: Ruth N. Halls Theatre, 275 N. Jordan Ave., Bloomington.
MORE: TIckets are $25, $15 for students and $20 for seniors. For more information, call 812-855-1103 or visit theatre.indiana.edu.