Each fall, Bates Dance come together to produce a fall concert; this fall, the concert included performances by DANC253: Repertory Performance, DANC270: Improvisation, and thesis research by Laura Pietropaoli ’17. Repertory Performance involves the biweekly integration of guest artists into regular technique class and choreography. These artists then set a piece on students during their two week residencies at Bates. These pieces compose the majority of the performance, and provide insight towards the wider world of dance performance and creation.
The concert opened with a dramatic and mysterious work by Takehiro Ueyama of Japan. As the lights slowly came up, I started to see spastic movements and hear violent whispers. I noticed both overwhelming fog and a stage-length fabric that appeared to both contain and connect all dancers together through holes for their heads. Slowly Becca Howard ’19 produced erratic and human movements to the sound of mechanical chaos in a solo. The fog still covered the stage and prevented the lights from fully illuminating the stage, so audience members could hardly discern the entrance of new dancers until they were front and center. As the piece progressed, I noticed the detail of dancers’ grey-white faces reminiscent of a Parisian clown’s make-up. As the piece comes to a close, two dancers mimic the opening image of the fabric, and I am left questioning the symbolism of the fabric in relation to group dynamics. Ueyama’s work made me question sanity, nature and technology, and human relationships. Further, the frenetic, tense and original live sound score operationalized the dancers’ distress. In all, an evocative piece.
Following Ueyama is Bates Dance icon Sean Dorsey. Dorsey, on his second Repertory Performance residency, set a recent piece about the HIV/AIDS epidemic in relation to the LGBTQ+ community. This piece elicited tears in several audience members due to the emotional and upsetting subject; however, Dorsey successfully communicates his message through the humanity in his movements. For this piece, Bates dancers were split into two groups to perform either the soft, dream-like portion or the quick, dramatic portion. Both groups came together in the last section, in which Dorsey used police and riot audio to generate a sense of chaos. Successful, I was shaken to my core and sat in stunned silence as the piece ended and cast members took their bows.
Laura Pietropaoli ’17 presented her thesis research with Claudia Lavista and Omar Carrum as the third piece. In this piece, Pietropaoli used color, sound, and wind to communicate with the audience. As she moved through space, I saw themes of resistance, indulgence and uncertainty. Pietropaoli approached four fans gradually throughout the piece. However, I did not know if they were a tool for creating a certain visual aesthetic in her costume or a meaningful prop within the theme of resistance. Regardless, the piece kept me thinking and engaged.
As the concert continued, the Repertory Performance group piece that Lavista and Carrum set took the stage. To me, this piece explored humanity and abstract relationships. A group of duets that demonstrate intimacy and tension convinced me that this piece would question healthy friendship and needs, and the final section exemplified these. As one dancer lays relatively calmly, another appears to go mad over her body. Other dancers must restrain the mad dancer, and the extremity of that particular relationship emphasized the difficulty inherent in interpersonal relationships.
In “24 Cooks: an Improvisation,” I noticed the energetic nature by which all the performers were engaging with each other and their environment. The improvisation demonstrated a much-appreciated break from the gravity of the other pieces. Lead by amusing vocalizations, the repetition and manipulation that this improvisation presented were both entertaining and meaningful.
Finally, Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance Julie Fox’s playful piece closed out the concert. Beginning like a cookbook or instruction packet, the piece swiftly descended into organized chaos. I saw some traditional ballet movements and patterns, such as an across-the-floor combination and pas de chats. Professor Fox also projected the “night sky” on the traveler, which gradually filled with stars, alluding to the title “How to Make a Moon.”
After the curtain went down on the last piece, I am left still processing the emotions, symbols and themes of the night. After entrancing me in the movements and stories, I am excited to experience the next performances that the Bates Dance Department produces.