Kathryn Butler ’17 discusses original Senior Dance Honors Thesis

Colby’s Spring Dance Concert this weekend will feature an inventive performance of new choreography and dazzling multimedia. Billed as The Opulence of Integrity, it showcases work by guest artist Christal Brown and student Kathryn Butler ’17.

Brown’s piece, a work inspired by boxer Muhammad Ali, uses varied media to “explore the struggle for identity for men of color in the United States,” according to her program description. Brown’s work is influenced by her own experience, and it will be performed by her own professional company. Butler’s piece is the result of her honors thesis in dance investigating the impact of various creatives processes and collaborative experiences. The Echo sat down with Butler to talk about her creative process, her thesis work, and her perspective on the show.            

Echo: What is your show about/what will it be like?

Butler: The spring dance concert features two pieces, Residents of Infinite Spaces, which I choreographed as part of my senior honors thesis, and The Opulence of Integrity, choreographed by professional choreographer Christal Brown and performed by her company INSPIRIT. In my work, you will see people with and without formal dance training performing both virtuosic, full-bodied movement and pedestrian movement.  The show appeals to a wide range of viewers because of its diverse movement qualities, precarious puzzles, comedic text, and unusual scenographic elements.

Echo: Is there a particular theme or issue you’re trying to address with your piece?

Butler: This piece, which investigates the relationship between dancers and the digital world, is an extension of my thesis research in the fall, which researched choreographic remote collaboration mediated by digital technology.  The piece focuses on the digital age, and the ways in which our lives are impacted or altered through living in both physical and virtual environments.      

Echo: What is something that you think makes it interesting?

Butler: This show is unique in that it shows both student and professional work.  It also shows, within one evening of work, two pieces with different aesthetics.

Echo: Would you like audience members to know anything else?

Butler: This collaboratively-created piece presents multiple viewpoints and perspectives, and therefore does not have a single narrative.  As a viewer, you are invited to find your own meaning in the work through reflecting on your own experiences in relationship to the themes of isolation, intimacy, and connection, along with each performers’ individual desire to reimagine their environment.

Echo: How long have you been working on it?

Butler: This is one part of my year-long honors thesis project investigating choreographic remote collaboration mediated by digital technology.  However, we began rehearsing for this piece at the beginning of JanPlan.

Echo: What was your process like?

Butler: The process of creating this piece was very collaborative.  I began the process by having many group discussions with the performers about their experiences in virtual and physical spaces. The work also was influenced by my thesis literature review and the book The Age of Earthquakes, a visual novel by Shumon Basar, Douglas Coupland, and hans Ulrich Obrist. Then, multiple iterations of the piece were assembled, some improvised, some randomly ordered, and others carefully sequenced.  Viewing these versions allowed the movement to be re-contextualized and allowed the piece to take on different directions.

The Spring Dance Concert  runs Friday and Saturday, March 10 and 11 at 7:30 p.m. in Runnals Theater. There will be a short Q&A with the performers after each show, and refreshments will be served after the Friday night show. Tickets are free, but can be reserved online on the Theater and Dance department website.