In the darkness of Pickard Theater, a single drum line echoes. The beat picks up, another drum joins, then another. The lights come up, revealing three drumming musicians in the corner of the stage. Singing from offstage grows louder as student dancers, dressed in traditional African clothing, enter single file, stepping in time to the rhythm. Their song, “Funga Alafia,” welcomes the audience. “With my heart I welcome you,” they sing.
So began the annual December Dance Concert, presented by the Bowdoin Department of Theater and Dance. The event, designed to showcase students’ work from the semester’s dance classes, consisted of four movements, choreographed by both professors and students.
The first movement, “Diggin’ the Roots,” was the work of CFD Postdoctoral Fellow in Dance Performance Nyama McCarthy-Brown, for her African-American Diasporic Dance class, a 100-level class with many students who had never danced before. The class focused on the evolution of African-American dance and featured styles such as jazz funerals, the plantation cakewalk and the Lindy Hop. The final dance in “Diggin’ the Roots” included performers from Bowdoin’s student dance group, Obvious, whom McCarthy-Brown enlisted to illustrate the most recent manifestation of African-American dance: hip hop.
Since the types of dances learned in this class were a new experience for most of her pupils, McCarthy-Brown was most impressed by her students’ enthusiasm. “My favorite part of the process was the students’ openness and excitement in moving their bodies,” she said.
I feel like myself on the stage. I can truly express myself through my body.”
-George Ellzey ’13
Golden Owens ’15, a member of McCarthy-Brown’s class, said she enjoyed working with her peers. “I liked getting to know everyone in my class,” she said, “and also learning the history behind the dances we’ve done.”
Next on the program was a sneak peak of senior Natalie Johnson’s advanced independent study in choreography, “Pillow Talk with Dionysus.” Danced without music, Johnson and her fellow dancers exhibited strength, precision and artistry. The full performance will take place on December 7th at 7 p.m. in 601 Memorial Hall.
One of Johnson’s featured dancers, George Ellzey ’13, was in three of the four performances of the concert. One of Bowdoin’s most talented dancers, Ellzey explained why he so committed to the art. “I feel like myself on the stage. I can truly express myself through my body,” he said, still breathless from his impressive performance.
“Boxed In,” choreographed by Senior Lecturer in Dance Performance Gwyneth Jones, was performed by the members of Modern II, an all-female ensemble. The piece intersected individual movement with group dynamics, and each dance featured wooden box-stools in a unique way. The movement both began and ended with the dancers standing on their boxes, back-to the audience, lightly running in place, lending both unity and progress toward the dance’s narrative.
The final movement, “Arid Spaces,” was performed by members of Ballet II. Assistant Professor of Dance Charlotte Griffin said she wanted to explore “the architecture of emotion.”
“It’s been an exciting collaboration on all levels,” Griffin said of the experience. She added, “It’s been an honor to work with [pianist] George Lopez. It was a learning experience for myself and the dancers in working with live music, and such complicated music.”
Story by Margot Howard ’13. Photos by Alex Cornell du Houx ’08.