Entering Into Dance — Again

Entrances, innovative, fun, dramatic, stud the student dance concert at Princeton University. for Pleiades, dances by seven senior certificate students, on Thursday at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre. It repeats Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.
Tickets are $15, $10 for students and seniors, Call 609.258.9220 or 609.258.2787.

I love watching student choreography because it’s often very original and challengingly cerebral. For this concert Aimee Fullman and I went to the dress rehearsal because so much else is going on. American Repertory Ballet performs at Stuart School on Friday afternoon and evening and Saturday night, while a group of female choreographers present new work on Friday and Saturday at Rider University in the annual “I’ll Have What She’s Having” concert. Then a Jersey City troupe performs at Passage Theater in Trenton at 7 p.m. Whew!

I haven’t written on deadline in years, but here goes. Maybe I’ll get a chance to fix stuff, add details, or add links later. Other opinions welcome!

The first dancer we see, in red spangles and fishnet stockings, teeters on a tightrope in front of the closed curtain. Two more dancers tumble out from behind the curtain as it begins to rise. What an unforgettable entrance! “From the Tumult, Caravan Up” is by history major Elizabeth Schwall, set to a score by Sigur Ros.

The curtain continues to rise and a total of nine dancers tensely try to keep their balance to incessant thrumming. Each is alone in a space. Then they begin to veer from one side to the other, sometimes grabbing for a rope that hangs, puzzlingly, from the rafters, progressively gaining confidence. At the end, they have coalesced as a group.

In “Gradient,” yellow-clad Julie Rubingenters stage left and fixes the audience with her gaze. She dances. Caught up in emotion she lunges toward the audience, downstage left, arms extended, stare fierce. With passion, she scans the horizon, then turns aside, and takes her gaze back. Face turned away, she exits stage right, the converse of her entrance.

In the middle of Jennie Scholick’s “For One to See the Other,” (co-choreographed with Kelsey Berry to a dreamy George Winston melody) the stage goes dark. The two dancers, who have been moving alongside each other but separately, entwine each other with a string of white lights in the darkness. Back to normal lighting, the lights replaced, the pair resumes. They seem freer which each other. Often they have been seated, one with her arms around the other. Now they thump each other into that pattern, then relax back into it. It’s as if “I know you now, it’s OK to have a conflict.” It was sweet, human, lyrical, inventive.

The rest of the program promises to be equally inventive. Sadly, I could only see the first half. Also presenting are Sarah Outhwaite, whose solo “Signal and Noise,” to a score using text and sound sent from Cambodia by Vince di Mura, presents a theoretical problem. According to a release, “does a voice sent in pieces from the opposite side of the earth make the living body who receives it more or less alone? “

In computer science major Stephanie Chen’s solo, says the release, “wireless accelerometers attached to the dancer interface with a computer that processes data about the dancer’s motion and renders graphics based on her efforts.” Chelsea Kolff, an ecology and evolutionary biology major, explores “the myriad of movement qualities seen in nature and the forces of the underwater world: each movement requires specificity and efficiency that is tailored to the evolutionary purpose and behaviors of each creature.” Kolff had spent the summer observing bottlenose dolphins at the National Aquarium in Baltimore

The entrance that is just before the intermission is a delightful surprise. Amy LaViers trumped the evening, for me, with her juxtaposition of dance with her academic studies of human movement and dance; she is an engineering major.

We’d been chitchatting with students in front of us in between numbers. Then came LaViers’ stunning solo, done last night in silence, though it was supposed to be jazz improve on a traditional Nigerian hymn. (Turns out the composer, Vince di Mura and his son Dre’ were en route from Thailand.)

LaViers started on a long diagonal, calm, then progressed to deeper levels of emotion, economical with her material. Memorable was her fending off movement. As she walked forward on a straight line, her elbows close, she would jerk her head and forearm to one side, then the other.

Suddenly the students in front of us jumped up and walked down, onto the stage, taking LaViers movement themes into their bodies. It was a peak moment for me. So many times, when watching a dance concert, I imagine myself joining the dance. “I can do that,” I would say to myself, knowing that – no, sorry, I might try to do that, but it wouldn’t look as good.” Now these non-dancers in mufti, just like me, are my avatars.

First on the dress rehearsal program (last on the program) is the only faculty choreography, danced by students, Rebecca Lazier’s “Vanish,” The Brentano String Quartet played the Schoenberg score. I found it difficult listen to, right off the bat. but exciting to watch. With one dancer on stage at curtain, the other dancers hurtled onto the stage from the wings, fairly bubbling with angst. Then came that fabulous moment that I wait for in Schoenberg, a haunting graceful melody, mirrored by lyrical legato movement. It’s like hitting yourself on the head, it’s so nice when you stop, and it so exemplifies the stresses and delights of one’s harried schedule.

On first viewing, the dance seemed to be too long. The dance could have ended several times, but the music kept going. But Lazier had a wealth of movement material, and it was indeed satisfying to see each theme come round again. At the end, I got the feeling of resolution that I get when a work is masterfully choreographed. And the students danced it gorgeously.

This is the weekend to see dance! You still have three nights left.

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