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Ohio State dance department to showcase dirty work in spring festival

DIRT,’ presented by OSU’s dance department, is scheduled to be performed May 24-26 at Plumb Hall Agricultural Arena, located at 2027 Coffey Road.

Dance students at Ohio State will ditch center stage to play in the dirt.

OSU’s dance department is scheduled to host “Dance Uptown: DIRT” at 8 p.m. on Thursday in the Plumb Hall Agricultural Arena, located at 2027 Coffey Road, as part of its Spring Dance Festival. The event is scheduled to run through Saturday.

Internationally acclaimed choreographers Bebe Miller and Esther Baker-Tarpaga will showcase their works titled “Our Town” and “Oh Darling the Dust Never Settles,” respectively.

The 41-student cast participating in “Dance Uptown: DIRT” includes dancers that range from first-year undergraduate students to graduate students. Miller and Baker-Tarpaga said the students inspired their pieces.

“This piece is really including the dancers that I’m working with, so this is really how does a group work, what comes up, what draws them together,” Miller said. “And information like that shows up in lots of different ways.”

Miller said she also drew inspiration from her everyday interactions.

“I read books, I watch movies, I listen to people talk,” Miller said. “I just draw inspiration as much as I can from how we all are just dealing with the world in various ways.”

Miller said the department is using the Plumb Hall Agricultural Arena as a venue because of renovations being made to Sullivant Hall.

“We knew we wanted a site-specific space since we were out of our regular theater due to the renovation of our building,” Miller said. “And looking around campus this was one that had caught our eye and we thought, ‘Let’s try it.'”

While the dirt floor did not change her choreographic style, Baker-Tarpaga said the dirt did affect the performers’ dancing.

“It’s like you’re used to driving on asphalt and one day it’s icy out,” said Eric Nordstrom, a third-year graduate student in dance and dancer in Miller’s piece.

Ellen Maynard, a third-year in dance and also a dancer in Miller’s piece, said the cushion the dirt provided allowed her to “get more air” when she jumped.

“You have to use a lot more energy to do anything,” Maynard said. “But it’s also fun because we do this thing where we literally jump and throw ourselves … but with the dirt we just go for it and it just cushions you so you can get a lot more air.”

Jennifer Meckley, a second-year graduate student in dance who will participate in the show, said as a dancer she has an opportunity to “kick, throw and play with the sand,” a prop that generally isn’t available to dancers on a stage.

The dance department’s Spring Dance Festival is made up of various “site-specific” dances, meaning performances occur in venues that do not include a clear stage or auditorium. This aspect is what drew Meckley to audition.

“I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to dance in a new environment and unconventional performance space, and of course to also get dirty,” Meckley said.

Tickets are $10 and are available online at ticketmaster.com or at the OSU Theatre Box Office, located at 1849 Cannon Drive.

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