In the forest, each tree represents a series of adaptations. Roots, trunk, branches, canopy — all are shaped by interactions with the surrounding environment.
Earlier this semester, seven dancers from the Performing Arts Department (PAD) in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis — led by David Marchant, professor of practice in dance — traveled to Tyson Research Center and began creating a new improvisational work inspired by the beauty and complexity of the natural landscape.
“Dancers physically traced the growth patterns of organic forms, which initially appear motionless, in order to reveal their movement on our human time scale,” said Marchant, who recently served as an artist-in-residence at Tyson. The resulting piece, titled “Emergent Action,” serves as “a living kinesthetic botanical illustration.”
On Dec. 6, the PAD will debut “Emergent Action” as part of “Coalescence,” the 2019 Washington University Dance Theatre (WUDT) concert. In all, the concert will feature nearly 40 dancers, selected by audition, performing six original works by faculty and visiting choreographers.
“The art of dance has historically been highly differentiated, with nation, culture, ethnicity, gender and class informing distinctions of genre,” said Marchant, who serves as artistic director for the show. “Over time, however, dance artists from all over the world have challenged such categories.
“Spaces where dance happens are also the places where we meet, connect, share and integrate our diverse human experience and tell our stories,” Marchant added. “Making dance requires people to collaborate on a live work of art.
“This process culminates when a yet wider community of people coalesce — or ‘grow together’ — through a shared experience of human movement.”
Also featured on the program are works by nationally recognized resident and St. Louis professional artists:
“Interludes” by Christine Knoblauch-O’Neal: Three dancers perform this new work in two parts by Knoblauch-O’Neal, professor of practice in dance and director of the MFA in Dance program. Set to music by Astor Piazzolla, the piece draws on ballet, jazz and competitive tango.
“As We Drift” by Elinor Harrison: “What do you carry when you cross a border?” asked Harrison, a postdoctoral fellow in the PAD. “And what do you leave behind?” This work for six dancers, created in collaboration with the Texas Room and local immigrant musicians, explores “the real and imagined boundaries that, once crossed, forever change the terrain of who we are.”
“Serenity” by Kirven Douthit-Boyd: This new work for 10 dancers “began as an exploration of contemporary movement in collaboration with the dance artists,” said Douthit-Boyd, a former lead dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and co-artistic director of dance at COCA. Inspired by the music of Xumantra and Arvo Pärt, the piece juxtaposes states of tranquility and urgency.
“Dragonflies” by Jennifer Media: A new work for five dancers by Medina, the artistic director of Common Thread Contemporary Ballet. The piece represents a journey through the history of women’s rights, “from the Seneca Falls Convention to the #MeToo movement.”
“The Two Kingdoms: Snake and Bird” by Diadié Bathily: Bathily, the executive and artistic director of the Afriky Lolo Dance Company, presents an excerpt from his evening-length “The Goddess Zaouli.” Based on traditional folktales of the Guro people of Ivory Coast, it follows a pair of rival suitors, the bird and the snake, as they seek the young goddess’ hand in marriage.
Tickets and performances
Performances of “Coalescence” begin at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 6 and 7, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8. Performances take place in Edison Theatre, located in Mallinckrodt Center, 6465 Forsyth Blvd.
Tickets are free for Washington University students. Regular prices are $20, or $15 for seniors, Washington University faculty and staff, and other students. Tickets are available through the Edison Theatre box office.
For more information, call 314-935-6543 or visit pad.wustl.edu.