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Dance department’s winter show challenges repetition

Dancers prepare for 'Inflecting Space' at a Wednesday dress rehearsal. Credit: Courtesy of Jess Cavender

Dancers prepare for ‘Inflecting Space’ at a Wednesday dress rehearsal.
Credit: Courtesy of Jess Cavender

From protests in Ferguson, Mo., and going to church, to repetition and stillness, the Ohio State dance department’s winter concert will give students the space to express a variety of their ideas and inspiration.

The department’s first production of 2015 features the work of nine student choreographers and their respective exploration of their craft with the production of “Winter Concert: Inflecting Space.”

“When we’re talking about the student dance concerts, the Winter Concert is the first one up and there is another one in the spring. This is an opportunity for our students to hone the craft — this is their creative space,” said Dori Jenks, the OSU Department of Dance’s external relations coordinator.

Jenks said students who want to showcase their choreography must first audition their work in progress in front of a panel of judges. After the judicial process, choreographers refine their piece with guidance from a professor as well as critique from their peers who are also debuting work in Winter Concerts.

From solos to group performances, this year’s Winter Concert shines light on many voices in OSU’s dance department. Some pieces explore social issues and others explore the strengths of different bodies.

One of the pieces named “From Within. And Back Again,” explores vulnerability, race relations and the idea of living within conventions. Quilan Arnold, a Master of Fine Arts student in dance, choreographed the piece using a fusion of hip-hop vocabulary and contemporary aesthetics.

Arnold said he began the piece last semester when he was toying with different conventions in life that might feel overwhelming.

“I am Christian and I got to church a lot. My main way is to have my hands up in church praising the Lord. That is a place of vulnerability for me, and where I feel overwhelmed,” Arnold said. “I ended up playing with the gesture of ‘hands-up.’”

During his research process, Arnold noticed how the gesture is popular within prayer, roller coaster rides and protests. During peer critiques, many acknowledged the similarities to the Ferguson, Mo., protests occurring in the same moment.

“A lot of people during the feedback session ended up saying that the piece reminded them about the Ferguson issue and at that time, I feel as though I couldn’t get away from that ‘hands-up’ gesture (in my piece) in relations to Ferguson. I was like, ‘If I can’t get away from it, why don’t I just go with it?’” Arnold said.

Not all pieces in the Winter Concert revolve around social issues though. Sarah Levitt, an MFA student in dance, is set to present a self-choreographed contemporary solo exploring the role of repetition in society.

“I played with the idea of repetition and looking at what the meaning of repetition is, what are the acts we repeat, and why,” said Levitt. “The things that we do ­— the things that we repeat — kind of build up the life we are living. When does repetition create meaning and when is it mindless?”

Levitt chose “Four Organs” by Steve Reich as the musical accompaniment for her solo.

“It’s a very repetitive piece of music — in fact, maddeningly so. Even when I dance to it, I sort of feel like ‘I wish this would stop,’” she said.

Levitt said she felt the sense of repetition in music really supported some of these themes explored and helped provide the foundation to dance across.

Brandon Whited, also an MFA student in dance, drew inspiration for his piece, “Sonata in A Minor,” from Renaissance statues he saw outside the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. Whited said he was drawn to the motion in the stillness of the statues.

Whited’s research is in masculine gender representation and he hopes to explore how male-identified individuals are depicted and represented on stage and in public.

“One of the questions I’m raising is: in presenting men in a different way than they are often seen, what do you see, what comes up, and what presumptions might you have?” Whited said.

Whited said his work delves into how men can interact together, support each other and care for one another in a way that isn’t often seen outside homosexual relationships, such as friendships or familial relationships.

Not only is “Inflecting Space” the first production of 2015, but the first concert in Barnett Theatre in Sullivant Hall since the grand reopening in September. Jenks said the seating in the new theater is limited because of its size, therefore tickets are expected to sell fast. Jenks suggests ordering the tickets online and picking them up at the door.

“Inflecting Space” premieres Thursday at 8 p.m. at the Barnett Theatre in Sullivant Hall and runs until Saturday. Tickets are $15 for the general public and $10 for students, OSU faculty, children and senior citizens. To reserve tickets, visit the OSU Theatre Box Office or Ticketmaster.

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