At 7:30 pm from April 30 to May 2, the St. Olaf Dance Department will host their annual spring Company Dance showcase, in Kelsey Theatre.
“This year it is very diverse, in the types of dancing: there’s going to be modern dance, lyrical, there’s even going to be one bluesy lindy swing, so it’s very different” explained Jacob Borg ’17, student choreographer for the concert.
Beginning in September, auditions are held by the dance department for members of Company Dance and dance class students that professors select, allowing for a mixture of dance majors and dance enthusiasts. Generally these dancers are selected from the Sophomore, Junior and Senior classes, as the first years are involved in their “First Year Project.”
The concert itself is compiled of seven pieces: two pieces by Karla Grotting, the guest dancer in residence, two pieces by students Jacob Borg and Nicole Volpe ’16 and three by dance department faculty. Performances range anywhere from two and half minutes to 18 minutes.
Grotting’s two pieces are a mixture of jazz variations, with inflections of ballet and modern in their explorations. Her first piece, “Maiden,” is a timeless, Nordic folk rock reflection on the rattling experiences of her daughter’s time in middle school.
“It’s a really rhythmic, really driving, modern dance piece but how I use the music is much more of a jazz piece… It’s about shifting relationships, that approaching of adolescence and trying to figure out what your feelings are, connections are, what can you count on, what old ideas of looking at the world are thrown away and what new ideas of looking at the world appear,” Grotting said.
Her second piece, “Walk this Way,” is an existentialist crisis for the genre of jazz. A Ted Nash piece that uses instruments such as the accordion and violin, are untraditional for the category allows for playing with the question of what makes jazz “jazz.”
“There isn’t a specific vocabulary for that or steps that you do in jazz class, but maybe you do a ballet shape and blue the note- bend the shape, make a parallel, turn it in: find ways to shift and adapt, find more expressiveness and transcend the technique” Grotting said.
Resident chair of the dance department, Sherry Saterstorm, has a piece that blends swing, modern dance, body mind centering principles and “contact improvising,” that experiments with each of these pairings and interactions. Anthony Roberts crafted a devised piece along with his noticeably larger cast, allowing for students to learn experientially how to create a work from start to finish. Janice Roberts’ piece focuses on an Irish immigrant’s story, channeling intensive costumes with old time fiddle music and themes of what it means to leave home and fine one elsewhere.
Student choreographers Borg and Volpe also break out of the department’s modern-centric traditions; Volpe’s piece is more lyrically based and Borg’s errs on the side of the contemporary.
“My piece is called ‘I.’ So, it started off, like, trying to find myself through dancing, because dance is an art that, for example, in my case, when I was thinking about it and we talked about it in class, it gives me another face, but it doesn’t mean the way I act, the confidence that dance gives you, it doesn’t necessarily mean who I am or how I feel on the inside, so it’s more like ‘who am I really?'” Borg said.
For a process that began months ago, the journey has been about more than performance pieces; it has been about experimentation and expanding boundaries.
“I’ve enjoyed helping the dancers with what it means to make artistic choices in their training…I’m interested in pushing dancers to think of themselves like a soloist and when we repeat a combination, instead of thinking ‘I’m going to make it more perfect,’ think ‘I’m going to experiment, I’m going to explore, I’m going to apply these dynamics and qualities,'” Grotting said.
“It’s a concert that takes a full year effort; we meet twice a week. We’ve been working on them since September. I think it will be a nice experience for everyone to experience and it’s up to each and every individual to judge the dancing, everyone has their own aesthetics. But I think it’s an experience where you get to see the dancing, which is now more concert like, more polished, than what you normally see in Friday Night Lights. It has professional lighting: it’s more of a production base than just dancing,” Borg said.
Tickets are available for all, $8 for general admittance, but free for students, faculty and staff. They are available by calling the box office number, 507 786-8987, between 11 am and 4 pm or through the St. Olaf web site.