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Ohio State Department of Dance and BalletMet partner up in ‘Parallel Connections’

Ohio State Department of Dance, BalletMet and the Wexner Center for the Arts are coming together to showcase four dances in Parallel Connections. | Credit: Jennifer Zmuda

Ohio State’s Department of Dance will join artistic forces with BalletMet this weekend to recreate and perform a selection of well-known choreographed routines.

Held at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Mershon Auditorium, Parallel Connections features two routines by the BalletMet, a performance by the dance department and a final collaborative piece showcasing both dance groups.

Susan Hadley, chair of the Department of Dance, said the collaboration allows Ohio State students to extend their creative talents beyond campus walls.

“I think it’s important for the university to embrace all opportunities to collaborate with our community,” she said. “Many [students] have a goal to work as professional performers, choreographers and designers in this field, and this is seeing the profession in action.”

BalletMet will start the show by performing professional Canadian choreographer James Kudelka’s “The Man in Black,” an intimate ballet routine danced in cowboy boots to music by Johnny Cash. The routine will be followed by the more traditional ballet, Slingerland Pas des Duex, by internationally known, American choreographer William Forsythe.

Then, Ohio State takes the stage.

Performing the “Wexner Center MinEvent,” Ohio State students will showcase a collection of dances by Merce Cunningham, an American dancer and choreographer who revolutionized modern dance.  

Invented by choreographer Merce Cunningham, the MinEvent is a performance format in which excerpts from the company’s vast repertoire of dances are combined in unexpected ways, according to the Wexner Center’s website.  

Kat Sprudzs, a third-year in dance, will perform in the MinEvent with 11 other students.

Rehearsing since January, they learned the dance in silence and only added the live music, which is created from old cans and an actual donkey skull, days before the performance. Sprudzs said the movements and the music do not necessarily correlate.

“Cunningham’s dancers wouldn’t even hear the music that they were going to hear in the performance until it was happening,” Sprudzs said. “The movement itself is so rhythmical and outside of an external, driving musical source … the rhythm is so inside me and it only exists in the movement.”

The rigid routine was recreated by two Ohio State dance directors, Karen Eliot and Daniel Roberts, who were once involved with Cunningham’s dance company. Sprudzs said training her body to move precise and technical was most challenging.

“We’re just not used to this type of work,” she said. “The work is repetitive within itself … but then we also built up strength through this process.”

Ending the show, Ohio State and BalletMet will perform a modern dance titled “Minus 16,” a creation by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin but arranged for Parallel Connections by ex-members of his Batsheva Dance Company.

Erin Yen, a fourth-year in dance, will perform and said she’s excited to share the stage with BalletMet –– and potentially audience members who want to participate.

“I’m most excited to share space and energy with strangers,” she said. “That’s partly audience members, but also extends to those in BalletMet, who I don’t consider strangers anymore but are still not entirely familiar dancers to me.”

Yen said the performance is like a collage of moments that create a story through strange yet cohesive movements. But even with the complexity, Yen said she is excited to experience the dance.

“The dance itself is all about imagery and I’m really excited to just dive in and find different sensations, and find different stories to allow myself to give into the movements,” she said.

With all the work BalletMet, Ohio State and the Wexner Center have done to create this show, Hadley said she can’t wait to see everything come together.

“I’m looking forward to this very lively evening of four very different pieces,” she said. “It’s going to be a really exciting evening because of the range and repertoire.”

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