Dark and light, past and present, movement and stillness.
In “Shadows,” celebrated choreographer Dana Tai Soon Burgess explores the poignant and sometimes conflicting psychology of our inner emotional landscapes.
On Friday, Nov. 30, Washington University in St. Louis’ Performing Arts Department (PAD) in Arts & Sciences will present “Shadows” as part of “PastForward,” the 2018 Washington University Dance Theatre (WUDT) concert. In all, the performance will feature more than 20 dancers, selected by audition, in seven new and original works by faculty and visiting choreographers.
“In the late 19th century, the concept of ‘art’ made a radical shift that today remains at the core of the artistic spirit,” said David Marchant, professor of the practice in dance and artistic director for WUDT. “This shift was not just a change of content, but of form, process and perceptual outlook. Painters, composers and choreographers leapt from being craftsmen to pioneers, from technicians to experimental intellectuals at the vanguard of their medium and contemporary culture.
“Today, artists are innovators, activists and community builders working at the leading edge of their craft,” Marchant added. “The works in this concert represent, for each artist, the ways in which they draw from influences and traditions of the past, while also continuing to seek new edges of the art form, and their own way of answering the question, ‘What is dance?’”
Click on images for more about each dance:
“Shadows” by Dana Tai Soon Burgess. As founder of the Dana Tai Soon Burgess Dance Company in Washington, D.C., Burgess has spent the last quarter-century exploring cultural divides and the experience of the “hyphenated person.” This work for eight dancers, which examines “the terrain of the inner-self,” is adapted from “Silhouettes,” a major new piece inspired by the exhibition “Black Out: Silhouettes Then and Now” at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, where Burgess serves as choreographer-in-residence.
“Déjà vu” by Ting-Ting Chang. “Returning to Taiwan after 16 years overseas, it took a little adjustment to reacquaint myself with my hometown,” said Chang, a former Andrew Mellon postdoctoral fellow in the PAD, and now artistic director for her own Taipei-based company. “This weird feeling of being a stranger at home inspired me to create this dance.”
“The Five Elements” by Asha Prem. “Shiva, the Hindu deity of dance, comes from the heavens and realizes there is no ground for him to dance upon, so he creates the Earth with the help of the dancers,” said Prem, artistic director of Dances with India. “They ask him, ‘What would you like us to do next?’ With their help he creates space, water, fire and wind.”
“’UnPartnered Dance’ examines how communities fall apart,” said Joanna Dee Das, assistant professor of dance. The piece is inspired by Jane Dudley’s iconic “Harmonica Breakdown” (1938), which explored the lives of Dust Bowl sharecroppers. To create it, Dee Das enlisted the aid of dramaturg Betsy Brandt, whose “thoughtful questions and comments helped the piece find a coherent vision.”
“Quartet” by Christine Knoblauch-O’Neal. “This work is the fusion of the avant-garde of ballet as seen through Ballet Russe and my sense of the current potentials in ballet,” said Knoblauch-O’Neal, director of the MFA in dance program. “The movement rides the edges of various dance genres while remaining tethered to the roots of ballet to form a construct of collected movement and play.”
“Deep Water” by David Marchant. “Each year humanity faces ever-escalating crises on numerous fronts,” Marchant said. “Storms, disasters, disease, drought, fire, famine, poverty, political unrest, war and violence are displacing people at unprecedented rates. With fear and hate on the rise, humanity itself feels, at times, adrift on a small boat over deep water.” This new work for 10 dancers is “a poem for our displaced spirit, and for the hope of reaching a distant shore that remains beyond the visible horizon.”
“HYPERBOLE” by Cecil Slaughter. This new work for five dancers “is inspired by images of high editorial photography and the obsession of the ‘selfie,’” said Slaughter, artistic director for the WashU Dance Collective. “The work serves as a metaphor for the extreme nature of the times in which we are living.”
Tickets and performances
Performances of “PastForward” begin at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 2. Performances take place in Edison Theatre, located in the Mallinckrodt Student Center, 6465 Forsyth Blvd.
PAD shows are free for Washington University undergraduate, graduate and University College students (enrolled in a degree program). Tickets for spouses, partners and family members of graduate students may be purchased at regular price. Free student tickets are not available online but can be picked up at the Edison Theatre Box Office Monday through Friday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Regular tickets are $20, or $15 for seniors, students and Washington University faculty and staff, and are available through the Edison Box Office, 314-935-6543. Tickets are available through the Edison box office.