“Construction Site” calls attention to the reconstruction of the arts on campus

Through a series of five site-specific contemporary dance pieces developed on five distinctive locations around campus, the Dance Division’s “Construction Site” performance on May 28 inspired a, quite literally, moving experience for attendees. Beginning at the Bing Concert Hall entrance and looping around Harmony House to end at the Cantor Arts Center, the audience was guided from site to site by an enthusiastic, dancing troupe of “construction workers” who posed creatively to form the path. Although marked by five separate pieces, the night served as a cohesive reminder of Stanford’s transforming physical environment and art’s ability to awaken the senses.

Diane Frank, a visionary lecturer within the Dance Division who originally conceived the event, said, “I wanted to convey that the entire campus has aesthetic potential, an artistic potential, and that there is no one location or hierarchy of locations that are artful.”

The dances, choreographed by Stanford’s Diane Frank, Aleta Hayes and Robert Moses as well as visiting Bay Area artists Manuelito Biag and Nina Haft, were developed as responses to their specific location.

Gloria Chua ’17, a member of the audience, pointed out this site specificity as a key element of her experience. She recalled, “The dancers were in this particular location, this particular time and place.”

The performance’s strategic onset at 7 p.m., just before sunset, meant that time would indeed have a significant role in the show. The wide-windowed Bing Concert Hall entrance invited light which, according to Chua, was like “liquid” that enhanced the fluidity of the dancers’ movement; by the time of Frank’s concluding piece at Cantor, artificial light would cast dancers’ shadows against large wooden sculptures and amplify their movements.

The dancers, their unique settings and the time of day all played a part in the overall production. This natural relationship only mirrored the overriding sense of collaboration that “Construction Site” required. Despite the independent preparation by choreographers for each site, the pieces were linked by the genre of contemporary dance, as well as by the thoughtful transitions between the pieces by the Construction Crew. The Construction Crew, the troupe of guides clad in white helmets, orange vests, and safety tape, was in itself a combined effort of a diverse assortment of people— dancers, graduate students, staff people, students in the ITALIC program, and Varsity athletes.

As Frank put it, “I like to crack open an idea about what art is, and who does it.”

Meredith Charlson ’16, a Dance Minor and member of the Chocolate Heads Movement Band, described her piece as a collaboration between the dancers and director, Aleta Hayes. Hayes would let them “play” and “see what was possible” on the Huang steps in the Engineering Quad.

“One of my favorite things about ["Construction Site"] is the fact that we are rehearsing on site,” Charlson said. “I feel like dance on campus is very contained, and that’s true of the arts generally. It was interesting to bring art and dance to space that doesn’t see it often.”

Indeed, intrigued faces that had not been traveling with the clumped audience would stop in their path to take a look.

“Art is construction,” Frank said. “We build things. [Art] is not an idea, it’s an action. The entire campus is undergoing tremendous renovation in terms of its physical facilities… At the same time that the facilities are being constructed, we are also constructing a frame of mind and point of view about art thinking and performance on campus.”

Both the original audience, and the audience that joined along the way, were able to begin constructing this creative mindset and “point of view” that sees artistic potential in everyday sights and settings.

 

Contact Jenna Shapiro at jennshap “at” stanford.edu.