Bowdoin Students Take Modern Dance Production to Northampton Spring Dance Festival

Aretha Aoki performing in 2012. Photo: Alex Escalante

Assistant Professor of Dance Aretha Aoki concluded the spring semester by taking her Modern Dance III: Repertory class to Northampton, MA, to perform their work, Well-drawn fields.

“It’s a collaborative project,” said Aoki, “choreographed by myself and the dancers. A formal exploration of bodies as topography and extensions of other bodies—and the meanings, narratives, relational drama, and roles that emerge, accumulate and ultimately disappear.” Much of the piece, she said, required the performers “to strive for a balance between making bold choices and moving as one, sometimes alternating quickly between an individual state and a collective one-ness.”

The performance took place on May 20, 2017, at the School for Contemporary Dance and Thought (SCDT), “a highly reputable studio and performance space with national and international connections,” said Aoki.  

Aoki and her eight students were part of MAYDANCE, a month-long festival of contemporary dance put on by local and out-of-town choreographers. “We were in the midst of creating the work when I was asked to take part in the festival,” she said.

“In the context of the repertory class, which is about being in a creative process to make a new work, performance is a significant part of the learning. You get to know a work by the sharing of it. And each time one performs, the work changes or a new aspect of the work is revealed.”

Aoki said it was enlightening to see how the students reacted to the challenges of having to perform in a much smaller space. “It was interesting to go from the vastness of Pickard, where the audience is hardly discernible through the bright lights on stage, to the intimacy of SCDT, where the audience is just a few feet away and where you may even brush up against someone’s foot! Some of the students said they were better able to tune in to each other because of this intimacy.

“They could take cues from the creaking floorboards, the rustling of fabric or the shadows cast on the walls. In a work where there are very few counts to anchor the movement and yet where the students are expected to move in relation to each other, sometimes in unison, this was useful information.”

The event also gave Aoki and her students the opportunity to perform alongside, and interact with, some of the world’s best professional dancers and choreographers. “The evening featured a work by choreographer and performer Katie Martin, whose dance installation involved the audience—they went without chairs and were invited to shift their position in the room, thereby changing their viewpoint and perspective of the work.” Aoki said she and the students were “blown away” by an improvised duet performed by Jen Nugent and Paul Mattheson, two highly regarded modern dancers with a well-established professional partnership.

  • Photo: Peter Raper
  • Photo: Peter Raper
  • Photo: Peter Raper
  • Photo: Peter Raper
  • Photo: Peter Raper
  • Photo: Peter Raper
  • Photo: Peter Raper
  • Photo: Peter Raper
  • Photo: Peter Raper
  • Photo: Peter Raper
  • Photo: Peter Raper
  • Photo: Peter Raper
  • Photo: Peter Raper
  • Photo: Peter Raper
  • Photo: Peter Raper
  • Photo: Peter Raper

For the student dancers who accompanied Professor Aoki on the trip, it was an unforgettable experience: “To be able to perform a work created at Bowdoin in a professional dance space, and have it hold up in such amazing company was truly a transformative experience,” said Julian Andrews ’17. “This performance put the work I have been a part of at Bowdoin in the context of the greater dance community and was an important affirmation of the quality of dance instruction at Bowdoin.”

Lucia Gagliardone ’17 said: “It was really powerful to be able to learn from such stunning, strong artists while being given the respect to perform our own work. I think being asked to contribute to and be a part of a professional, honest, dance gathering significantly improved our artistry and felt deeply meaningful.”

The other student dancers/collaborators involved in the performance were: Paul Cheng ’17, Benjamin Eisenberg ’17, Austin Goldsmith ‘18, Kristina Karlsson ’17, Felicia Wang ‘20 and Christopher Warren ’17.
Costume design byJulie McMurry. Sound design by Ryan MacDonald.

 

 

 

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