Spring dance concert encourages individual interpretation

Within the realm of performing arts, modern dance can often be perceived as inaccessible for the average viewer. However, both Assistant Professor of Theater and Dance Annie Kloppenberg and Sara Gibbons ’15 challenge the misconceptions surrounding this idea and encourage individual interpretation of their upcoming dance performances. The Department of Theater and Dance is presenting two contemporary dance pieces on Friday and Saturday: Gibbons’s Thesis Project  Into the Frame of Us and Kloppenberg’s professional company in the premiere of  Entrances & Echoes.

Gibbons approached Into the Frame of Us with the idea that the dancers are integral in creating the performance, and to a certain extent, the performers dictated the content and execution of the piece itself. “I wanted to create a piece that is about the dancers and the participants. I sourced all of the material from a mixture of their experiences, individual histories and diverse interests,” Gibbons said.

She found further inspiration by forming a somewhat unconventional cast, explaining “I am really interested in working with non-dancers or people who haven’t performed before because there is something very refreshing about the embodied knowledge and history that comes with different experiences for individuals. There are two soccer players, three dance majors and interested friends of varying experience, [as well as] two freshmen who have never danced before.”

Through this method of collaborative work, Gibbons and her dancers experimented with different concepts and ideas, until a central theme and idea began to take form. “I kind of gave them license to bring in things they wanted to try, and that sort of evolved into the idea of unattainable dreams and just dreams in general. In the piece there are both literal and more abstract iterations of the dancers’ dreams.” One specific dream involved dancer Lizzie Woodbury ’15 performing an excerpt of the song “Macavity” from the musical Cats, as it was a childhood dream of hers to perform it on stage.

Professor Kloppenberg also utilized the concept of collaboration, using it as a central tool in the creation of  Entrances & Echoes. “The work is entirely collaborative, with the seven dancers that are going to be on the stage, in addition to several other dancers who were involved in studies that led up structurally to this work.” Rather than direct choreography, Kloppenberg used open creative prompts with her dancers as a means of forming the content of the piece. “I think there is very little content in here that I made in my own body. A lot of it has to do with coming up with projects and challenges and prompts for the dancers to encounter independently and together and for me to see what draws my attention.”  Through this method, Kloppenberg took some of the movements and phrases that were originally improvised, and integrated them as featured parts of the performance.   

The central visual element in  Entrances & Echoes  features the gradual laying down of tape, outlining the changing settings and spaces in the piece. “The dancers leave physical traces in the space by laying down these sort of rooms that sort of get arranged and dismantled, and each time they trace the edges of the spaces they inhabit… with physical tape that stays on the stage,  those lines accumulate and create this kind of geometric map of the piece that will exist at the end.” said Kloppenberg. This concept reflects elements of repetition and shifting contextualization, themes which inspired Kloppenberg throughout the creation of the work.

Both Gibbons and Kloppenberg see dance as fundamentally accessible, and make it clear that any individual can understand and appreciate modern dance with the right frame of mind. To Gibbons, contemporary dance is best defined by the viewer, and not by the the choreographer or the performer. “There’s the expectation that you have to understand or that there is a singular point that the choreographer is wanting to portray, or even that it’s about something. Rather I think that as the audience, each member is coming with their own different experiences and histories which are shaping the meaning and understanding. It’s really about the viewer formulating the meaning for themselves and that everyone can have a different understanding. and thats okay…. And that’s kind of the exciting part of it; these different viewpoints and experiences of watching a performance.”

Kloppenberg suggests that dance should be approached “with a kind of poetic logic that doesn’t have a single explanation but gives permission for the viewer to encounter the work, respond to it and have perspectives on it.” She states that, “nobody has to be an expert to be able to get something out of seeing this kind of work.” She adds that dance as a medium connects with the audience through the idea of kinesthetic empathy, meaning that the viewer puts themselves in the place of the performer, experiencing the perceived motions and sensations through their imagination.

Gibbons said, “I think there is a lot of relatable information within the piece that other people at Colby, not just performers, would be interested in seeing”.

Performances are March 6 and 7 at 7:30pm and are free and open to the public. Reservations can be made through the Department of Theater and Dance’s website or by calling the department office at (207) 859-4520.

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