Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Art of Spring: Dance at Barnard

Last week I had the pleasure of dancing on the Barnard College campus' Lehman Lawn with fellow alums, current students and faculty. It was the perfect way to spend a warm sunny May day because after all, what do I love more than dancing, Barnard, and warm May days? (No really. These are absolutely my favorite things ever.)

Faculty member Colleen Thomas directed the site specific dance work and she did it well. Accompanied by students singing a fun pop song, bellowing Taiko drums, and enchanting cello melodies, the work captured the essence and spirit of campus, honored dance tradition and scholarship, and revealed quirks of the dance department.

A strong spirit of community sets Barnard a part from other Columbia schools, and Colleen captured this spirit with multiple group sections involving lifting and supporting individuals within the group, in addition to mass unision and semi-unison phrases. The movement itself, in addition to spatial patterns, physicalized concepts of support, assistance, guidance, and collaboration. 

The centerpiece of the work was a solo by Professor Lynn Garafola, dance historian and senior thesis advisor. Colleen designed a moment in which the movement of Lynn's arms gathered and directed the undergrads resulting in a mass of students revolving 360 degrees around her. It simultaneously signified for me homage for dance scholarship and honor for dance ritual (think of how many traditional folk dances involve masses of people in circles.)

Idiosyncracy in the department was revealed by Mary Cochran's solo. There's something a bit off-kilter about the department chair running forward on a balcony in her hot pink crocs, shaking her hot pink wig, and punching her hot pink plastic poncho, but it made so much sense in the context of the dance. In the midst of a huge moment of reverence it was an injection of wackiness, forward-thinking, and fun. 

As an alum it was absolutely delightful to see how the dance department has grown to have such a visible presence on campus. In this work, the department was not just tucked away in the corner annex to Barnard Hall. Dance enlivened the lawn and drew your eye to parts of Barnard Hall and the Diana that you may not have thought to examine. One of my favorite parts dubbed the "library section" involved dancers sitting outside of the library performing movement phrases that eventually engaged with dancers passing by; however, the dancers passing by were completely mixed with actual passersby. By bringing attention to the pedestrian path and integrating dance with the passersby, the choreography made me really feel like dance is integral to the every day life of campus.

Click this photo below to see all the moments described above!!!

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