On March 5, six Bates dancers and one singer-songwriter embarked on a journey to perform and share their works-in-progress with local supporters of the arts at the Denmark Arts Center in Denmark, Maine. Alisa Amador ’18 presented some original songs, and then Laura Pietropaoli ’17 and Mary Anne Bodnar ’16 presented their respective dance pieces. The concert also featured a work in progress by a senior at Colby College, Brendan Leonard.
Amador opened the show with music and light banter in between songs. Amador’s warm, effortless vocals melded seamlessly with her ukulele, acoustic guitar and electric guitar. Throughout her performance, Amador explained her inspiration for each song, citing finals week, missing her twin sister and love lost as sources of material for lyrics. As a college student myself, her songs were particularly relatable and brought to light many issues Bates students struggle with. Amador finished her set with a sing-along of “Fools Rush In” by Elvis Presley, and the audience eagerly joined in, singing the sweet song with smiles on their faces.
Pietropaoli’s piece investigated loneliness, particularly how solitude can be both challenging and enjoyable. The piece began with three dancers moving in synchronization while making very pedestrian gestures and facial expressions, such as putting their hands to their cheeks in surprise. The lyrics of this section’s music discussed a “lonesome town” that began to describe each dancer as they strayed from the group’s movements. As the piece progressed, dancers demonstrated movements characteristic of stress such as rubbing and scratching. Then they transitioned into pedestrian movements and facial expressions. This juxtaposition captured the many emotions associated with being alone and helped convey Pietropaoli’s message of loneliness as a multifaceted sensation.
You may recall Bodnar’s thesis solo performance from the fall dance concert. Her piece at the Denmark Arts Center was her exploration of similar methods of generating movement with comedy when applied to a group of people.
Her piece began with an intense period of silence while one dancer performed a short solo, followed by an eerie-sounding laugh track during a second duet. Finally, a comedian spoke as one dancer matched her movements to the comedian’s tone and vocal fluctuations. In the background, a second dancer moved independently of the sound score.
Bodnar later explained that the downstage dancer is meant to be the “comedian” while the upstage dancer is meant to represent the situation or person the comedian describes. The effect was thought provoking; while the comedian said very mean things, the audience laughed along. However, they also saw the harsh reality the comedian described. The final takeaway was that, though comedians are funny, they are describing situations in which real people get harmed.
The final performance of the night was the presentation of thesis performance artwork by Leonard, who explored queer theory and future opportunity through his original poetry and the improvised movements of two dancers. The dancers explored each other and a stage full of props, such as a “Caution When Wet” sign and small disco balls. Leonard explained that he was exploring the subjectivity between the audience’s sound and sight perceptions, his poetry and the dancers’ improvised movements.
The concert ended with an informational question and answer session with each artist, dancer and performer. The audience left the discussion more critical of comedy, open to the different experiences of loneliness and aware of how sight and sound co-mingle in subjectivity.
The concert as a whole provided intellectually stimulating performances and left spectators more knowledgeable and critical of the world around them.