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Performers rehearse for Maddie Leonard-Rose's production of "Where I am is what I need." Credit: Courtesy of Hana Newfeld

Dancers use unconventional spaces, improvisation in “Meet Us Here”

Three fourth-year students in the dance department are asking audience members to meet them in unconventional spaces to experience emotion in response to dance – no matter where it is performed.

“Meet Us Here” is a performance consisting of three installation dance performances: “Where I am is what I need” by Maddie Leonard-Rose, “Intra: LOOP” by Hana Newfeld and “Revitalize, Rehumanize” by Gabë Wiltz. The three choreographers investigate multimedia elements and improvisation in their senior projects, which will be performed on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. in Sullivant Hall.

Leonard-Rose described each of the performances as “site-specific works” because they will be performed in various spaces of Sullivant Hall — the Rotunda, a lobby-type space, the Collaboratory, a meeting room and Room 270, a classroom, as opposed to traditional studios. She said the use of varied settings encourages audience members to attend the performances with an open mind.

“Working in these non-traditional spaces means, you’ve just got to meet us where we are. We’re not working with the convention of theater or stage dance as it normally exists,” Leonard-Rose said.

“Where I am is what I need” is a quartet choreographed and directed by Leonard-Rose, although she will not be performing herself. Instead, she said she will investigate questions rooted in her background as a dancer through her choreography.

“The questions I’m imposing on or had during this choreographic process were, ‘What do dancers sign up for when they agree to be a part of your rehearsal process?’” Leonard-Rose said. “So, this sort of sense of contractual agreement we have in the dance world — what does it really entail?”

In exploring these questions, Leonard-Rose said she hopes to create a “sustainable” rehearsal environment where dancers feel comfortable to make their own improvisations in the choreography. Additionally, she said her piece will use music picked by the dancers in order to provide agency by enabling them to make individual choices.

“Intra: LOOP” is an entirely improvised solo performance. Newfeld said the piece combines her experience as a dancer and a yogi through merging meditative movements with dance.

“People are always talking about mind-body connection and everything, especially in the yoga world, and I want to bring that more into the dance world because it lacks sometimes,” Newfeld said. “We think about it, but more from an analytical point of view, less of like an understanding of our being and who we are as humans.”

Newfeld said her performance will incorporate multimedia aspects in the form of projections and an instrumental soundscape performed by her mother. She said her mother, a full-time yogi, will play glass singing bowls and a shruti box in the manner that she usually would during the yoga practice of shavasana.

Wiltz said “Revitalize, Rehumanize” is a culmination of her college experiences, specifically the investigation of her race in relation to the world around her. She said her performance is partly choreographed and partly improvised in an attempt to explore the universality of emotions such as joy.

“Sometimes it can seem like celebration of blackness is meant to tear down or not approve of anything else, which I don’t believe is true at all,” Wiltz said. “What I’m aiming for in my movement and in my song choices and in the way I want to get people to think about black joy, is to also just be like, ‘Well, I feel those things too,’ whether you’re black or not.”

Wiltz said her performance will evoke emotion in the audience through projecting videos from social media that highlight positivity surrounding the black community.

“There are just so many great things that are happening that are so easily accessible, because I literally see them all on Twitter or Facebook or anything like that, and I’m just going to take them all and put them all in one place so people can see them,” Wiltz said.

Although Newfeld said each piece is “radically different,” she said the three performances are similar in their goals to create intimate environments in which audience members can fully experience their emotions in response to dance.

“All of our pieces are creating a safe place for people to come and just be themselves and experience themselves and appreciate themselves,” Newfeld said.

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