Kinetic Field Work Dec. 2-4

Annual Washington University Dance Theatre showcase explores community, conflict and collage

Washington University Dance Theatre presents Kinetic Field Work, its 2011 concert, Dec. 2-4 in Edison Theatre. Pictured is Afters, a new piece for 13 dancers choreographed by Mary-Jean Cowell. Photo by David Marchant. Download hires image.

From the Arab spring to the London riots to the ongoing Occupy protests, themes of revolution, unrest and community are very much in the news today.

They are also very much in the dance studio, as evidenced by Kinetic Field Work, the 2011 Washington University Dance Theatre (WUDT) concert.

The annual showcase, which takes place in Edison Theatre Dec. 2, 3 and 4, will feature more than 50 student dancers, selected by audition, performing new and original works by seven faculty and guest choreographers.

Kinetic Field Work alludes to the specific research process that we go through as dancers and choreographers,” says Cecil Slaughter, director of WUDT and a senior lecturer in dance in the Performing Arts Department in Arts & Sciences. “It’s a very physical process, very organic, very intuitive. It’s about looking out into the world and responding to what’s there.”

Slaughter notes that several works on the concert suggest stories of war and disaster. His own contribution, titled Memento Mori — a large-scale piece for 15 dancers — was inspired by Vedran Smailovic, aka “The Cellist of Sarajevo,” whose daring performances amidst the wreckage of the Bosnian War were chronicled in the book of the same title.

“I was really moved by his actions,” says Slaughter, noting that the book, by Steven Galloway, was this year’s selection for the university’s Freshman Reading Program. “I started thinking about music and art and how they affect people.

“But as I got into the piece, I realized that I was really dealing with the emotions we experience in times of conflict,” Slaughter says. “It’s about a community being shattered apart and then trying to find its way back together again.”

A similar note is struck by Afters, a new work for 13 dancers by Mary-Jean Cowell, PhD, associate professor and coordinator of the Dance Program. Cowell describes the piece, which is set to music of Arvo Pärt, as “a collage of movement images suggesting the emotions and responses of those who have experienced disaster, whether natural or manmade.”

The idea of collage also informs I, a work for 14 dancers by David Marchant, professor of the practice in dance. Marchant calls the piece “a collage of ‘poems’ in movement, exploring how ‘other’ is the defining context of whatever we call ‘self,’ and the meaning we seek and find when our individual narratives interact in unexpected ways.”

Also on the concert will be a pair of new works by guest artists Jock Soto and Ting-Ting Chang, PhD.

Soto, a Distinguished Visiting Scholar, is a former principal dancer for the New York City Ballet, where he danced for many of the 20th-century’s premier choreographers, including George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins.

For WUDT, Soto created Shostakovich Suite, a new work for 14 dancers. Divided into three sections, the piece combines the vocabulary and character-driven relationships of traditional ballet with a warm and often humorous contemporary sensibility.

Chang is a former postdoctoral fellow in the PAD who now teaches at the National Taiwan University of Arts. Earlier this fall, she returned to campus to set R…, a new work based on the traditional Chinese sleeve dance — a form dating back to at least the Han dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.) — in which long silk sleeves accentuate the dancer’s hand and arm movements.

Rounding out the program will be new works by Christine Knoblauch-O’Neal, professor of the practice in dance and director of the Ballet Program, and by Dawn Karlovsky, adjunct instructor in dance.

Knoblauch-O’Neal’s Scarlatti Sonatas, a work for eight dancers, is inspired by Vladimir Horowitz’s acclaimed performances of the sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti.

Karlovsky’s Echo is a choreographic interpretation of the eponymous poetic technique, in which a statement is made and a response follows. The piece establishes a similar reciprocity between dancers and musician.

Performances of Kinetic Field Work will begin at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 2and 3, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4.

Tickets are $15, or $10 for students, senior citizens and Washington University faculty and staff, and are available through the Edison Box Office, (314) 935-6543, and all MetroTix outlets. Edison Theatre is located in the Mallinckrodt Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd.

For more information, call (314) 935-6543.

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