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Tender encounters

By Jessica Fogel

Ann Arbor Dance Works presents its 26th annual spring season, featuring a premiere by NYC guest artist Sidra Bell, and premieres and recent repertory by resident choreographers Amy Chavasse, Bill DeYoung, Peter Sparling, and Robin Wilson.

The concerts will be presented 8 p.m. June 2-4 in the Betty Pease Studio Theater inside the Dance Building on the University of Michigan’s Central Campus, 1310 N. University Court.

A collective of members of the U-M dance faculty formed in 1985, Ann Arbor Dance Works is dedicated to the collaborative process and shares a wide-ranging repertory with audiences.  In addition to producing works by resident choreographers, the company has hosted many guest choreographers.

Guest designers, poets, videographers, visual artists, and composers have collaborated with company members, contributing to the creation of innovative and multi-layered works of resonance, depth, and beauty. Since its inception, Ann Arbor Dance Works has produced choreography to critical and popular acclaim in New York City, throughout the Midwest, and internationally.

The company has produced projects in the Ann Arbor community, including the creation of several large-scale dances in natural settings.  “Audience members could feel an intimate connection with all the performers. [The program’s works] were exhilarating…. evocative…. glowing…. radiantly danced,” wrote Kate O’Neill in Dance Magazine.

Artistic Director for the company and concerts is Jessica Fogel with lighting design by Mary Cole.


Guest Artist Sidra Bell (photo left) will premiere a new work created for Ann Arbor Dance Works company members during a two-week residency. Artistic Director of Sidra Bell Dance New York, Bell has a BA in History from Yale University and an MFA in choreography from Purchase College Conservatory of Dance.

Bell has been commissioned for many special projects nationally and internationally. Recent commissions include River North Chicago Dance Company, Alvin Ailey/Fordham BFA Program, and National Choreographers Initiative. Her work has been seen at many premiere venues throughout the United States and internationally in Denmark, Austria, Germany, Canada, and Greece.

Choreographer and performer Amy Chavasse, U-M assistant professor of dance, premieres “What Passes for Tenderness,” featuring six dancers.  In developing the work, Chavasse poses the question: “How is tenderness expressed, and what is the object of our tenderness?”

In 1956, Rachel Carson wrote a script for the popular TV show Omnibus entitled, “Something About the Sky.” She hoped to challenge the “sterile preoccupation with things artificial” and question our “alienation from our source of strength.” Chavasse states: “Our absolute and essential humanness calls out for a re-imagined vocabulary of tender encounters. What does this look and feel like in 2011?” Chavasse and her cast will create their own definitions (and for balance, their opposite) of tenderness towards each other and where we live.

U-M Professor of Dance Bill DeYoung presents “Tenfold,’ featuring dancer Jillian Hopper.  Originally created in 1986, this virtuosic solo is set to a score by U-M composer Stephen Rush, which will be performed live by pianist Joseph Prestamo. Within the work, ten different musical styles and qualities are set forth, one flowing into the next, until all are recapitulated in a thrilling cadenza.

U-M Thurnau Professor of Dance Peter Sparling presents a new screendance entitled, “Patient Spider.” The music is by composer Yehuda Yannay. A flat screen and video editing provide a web-like kaleidoscope of multiple windows onto the body as it scans inwards and outwards.

Robin Wilson, U-M associate professor of dance, presents two works. Called a “giggle of a dance” by dance critic Susan Nisbett, “Feets!” is a playful work for five women that explores rhythm as they strut their stuff to music by Easy Karaoke Players.  The dance features a video backdrop by Wilson.  Commissioned by People Dancing, the dance premiered last November.

Wilson will also present “Blues/Crossroad.”  Set to the music of traditional field hollers, she revisits this duet and performs in it with dancer Erika Stowall, who reprises Wilson’s original role as a woman at the crossroads of her life.

The concert has received funding from U-M Gay Delanghe Endowment and the U-M Department of Dance.

Admission is $15 for the general public and $10 for students and senior citizens. Tickets are available at the door only.  Ticket sales will begin at 7 p.m., one hour prior to the performance. Seating is limited. Events Line:  (734) 763-5461.

For further information, please visit the Ann Arbor Dance Works website: