Rendering the meaning of gesture, motion and rhythm
By Kerianne Tupac
The University Dance Company of the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD) presents “Translation,” an evening of four dance works. The evening features a restaging of “D-Man In The Waters (Part I),” the first movement of an award-winning 1989 dance choreographed by Bill T. Jones. Faculty members Amy Chavasse, Jessica Fogel, and Sandra Torijano create their own works for the program.
The concert plays on February 7 at 7:30PM, February 8 & 9 at 8PM and February 10 at 2PM at the Power Center for the Performing Arts. “Translation” features artistic direction by Judy Rice.
The concert begins with a pre-show interactive lobby performance-installation that transfers to the stage in choreographer Jessica Fogel’s “Hath Purest Wit: Anagrams for Eight Dancers and Thirteen Letters” Commissioned by U-M’s Arts Engine for the conference “The Role of Art-Making and the Arts in a Research University,” the work premiered in 2011 at the Duderstadt Center. The dance seeks to express a key neurocognitive element of the creative process — insight thinking. By continuously reconfiguring a set of letters to form and embody new phrases, the dancers solve puzzles that have many possible solutions.
A narrator, played by Professor of Theatre & Drama Leigh Woods, comments on the dancers’ actions throughout, quoting from Marcel Danesi’s “The Puzzle Instinct” and Lewis Caroll’s “Through the Looking-Glass.” The dance is set to a musical collage featuring the work of composer John Adams paired with pop-tunes. “Hath Purest Wit” features a scenic design by Kasia Mrozewska, costume design by Suzanne Young, and lighting design by Mary Cole.
Intrigued by the sideshow celebrities at state fairs, Amy Chavasse presents “Headless Woman,” an homage to the curiosities that scintillate our imaginations. “A few years ago,” states Chavasse, “I came across an article about a sideshow feature at the NC State Fair, revealing the surprising experience of a young woman who had signed on for a job as the headless woman. It offered up an astounding collection of facts: she was originally from San Francisco, was a college graduate, read Nieztsche during her cigarette breaks, and she had taken the job on a lark—to see the world through a totally unfamiliar prism to see people who were unlike anyone she had encountered so far in her life. She also remarked on the bawdy, sexually tinted, and crude comments uttered by those who passed through the exhibit. I was intrigued and riveted by the possibilities for a dance/theater endeavor.” Originally presented in 1998, Chavasse revisits the dance in collaboration with her dancers to elaborate on the original presentation.
Composer/Musician Andrew Hasenpflug creates a new score for the dance, with costumes by Suzanne Young, video by Caroline Chavasse, and lighting by Mary Cole.
“Aria Vitale” by Sandra Torijano speaks towards love, humanity, and farewell mixed with a spontaneous spirit. Rhapsodic, the dance consists of four sections set to the music of Claudio Monteverdi, Heitor Villa-lobos, J.S. Bach, and Alberto Iglesias. Tying the sections together is the image of ‘girasol,’ the Spanish translation for sunflower and, for Torijano, a metaphor for “looking for the light in my life and inner strength.” The scenic design by Kasia Mrozewska features an excerpt of a sunflower mural by the choreographer’s brother, painter Eduardo Torijano, a professor at the University of Costa Rica. “Aria Vitale” has costumes by Suzanne Young and lighting by Mary Cole.
Highlighting the concert is the first movement of the 1989 Bessie Award-winner for Choreography, “D-Man In The Waters,” by Bill T. Jones. A multi-talented artist, choreographer, dancer, theater director and writer, Jones has received major honors ranging from a 1994 MacArthur “Genius” Award to Kennedy Center Honors in 2010. He was inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2009, and was named “An Irreplaceable Dance Treasure” by the Dance Heritage Coalition in 2000.
Created shortly after the death of Jones’s partner Arnie Zane and dedicated to Demian Acquavella, a dancer battling AIDS-related illness during the creation of the work, “D-Man In The Waters” celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and survival. The dance is set to Mendelssohn’s “Octet for Strings in E-flat” and features costumes by Liz Prince and lighting by Robert Weirzel. It has been staged with U-M students by Germaul Barnes, a former member of Jones’s company.
Following the performance on Friday, February 8, will be a post-performance discussion moderated by Clare Croft and featuring the faculty choreographers and members of the cast. Curtain Call Fridays offer an opportunity for audience members to talk with artists about each production. Sponsored by the Friends of Dance, the discussion is free and open to all.
In conjunction with the concert, the Department of Dance hosts a panel discussion, “D-Man In The Waters: Then and Now,” on the creation and subsequent re-stagings of the Bill T. Jones work. The panel features three former Bill T. Jones dancers who were in the original cast of the work: Janet Lilly, Arthur Aviles, and Germaul Barnes. Chaired by Professor Peter Sparling, the panel also includes Translation’s Artistic Director Rice. “D-Man In The Waters: Then and Now” will be held in Studio A in the Dance Building located at 1310 N. University Ct. on U-M’s Central Campus on Wednesday, February 6, from 12:10-1:10 PM.
Ticket prices for “Translation” are $26 and $20 reserved seating with students only $10 with ID. Tickets are available in person at the League Ticket Office, located within the Michigan League. The Ticket Office is open from 9AM – 5PM, Monday through Friday and 10AM – 1PM on Saturday. Order by phone at (734) 764-2538. All major credit cards are accepted.
Tickets may also be ordered online at www.music.umich.edu. The Power Center for the Performing Arts, 121 Fletcher Street, is wheelchair accessible and equipped with an infrared listening system for hearing enhancement.