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Winter Works Concert: Where Dance Comes Together With Physics, Water, and Native American Spirit

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This Friday and Saturday, Studio 38 at Roble Gym will shed light on performers employing a wide and exploratory range of dance techniques. The “Winter Works: New Choreography in Concert” has on its agenda both student and faculty choreographed pieces ranging from modern and post-modern dance to a mix of classical ballet and contemporary dance. Student Choreographers include Katherine Hawthorne ’10 for her piece “Fell,” Ali McKeon ’11 for “Bloom” and “Illuminate,” Temo Peranda ’10 for “Sacred Smoke,” Samantha Smith-Eppsteiner ’12 for “Post Secret” and CC Chiu ’13 for “Push.” Faculty pieces encompass a nautical experiment of bodies in “Sea Change,” choreographed by Diane Frank, the concert director, and a hot fusion of Jamaican social dance and Aeon Flux-inspired movements in “Chocolate Heads,” choreographed by Aleta Hayes.

The tech rehearsal this past Tuesday covered a full rehearsal for the show in addition to a play on lighting effects. On one side of the studio looking onto the stage sat a number of performers preparing for their group pieces, some preparing their music, others chatting with a fellow performer as they swung their legs on a small ballet barre. Meanwhile, on the other half side of the studio, tall freestanding windows lined both sides of the stage, its dark floor dimly but sufficiently lit.

When the rehearsal began, lights focused on the stage floor, introducing Ali McKeon’s “Bloom,” bringing together her training in classical ballet and an interest in the exploration of lyricism in her contemporary work. The dynamic changes and intricate patterning reflected melodious parts of her classical training, as well as fast and athletically physical movements introduced by acoustic guitar–music with which McKeon hoped people could connect.

In another creative mix, Katherine Hawthorne combined her interests in physics and dance in “Fell.” She drew inspiration from principles of gravity and free fall, as well from her summer research in the Stanford physics department into her piece. “My technical understanding of [free fall] motivated my work, challenging me to remove assumptions that we as dancers hold about verticality and falling,” Hawthorne said. Further, she hopes to “problematize the role of the spectator,” just as modern physics concerns the role of the observer.

Like McKeon and Hawthorne, other choreographers also displayed artistic heft in their innovative pieces and a desire for engaging both the performers and the audience. Temo Peranda fused post-modern choreography with Native American dance traditions and mythology in his “Sacred Smoke.” His sound score included Mariachi harp, played live. Samantha Smith-Eppsteiner explored the art project phenomenon of “Post Secrets,” drawing inspiration from the PostSecret project founded by Frank Warren.

CC Chiu, a freshman at Stanford, said her piece “Push” was inspired by her relationship with her brother, who is a graduating senior. “This piece symbolizes progression and constant movement,” Chiu said, also referring to the representation of how the two siblings work together. Impressively synchronized, Chiu’s fast and playful piece represented a unique dance between brother and sister.

The compiled works comprised a mix of fierce, strong, sometimes rustic, other times melodious, parts in the both music and body movements. Diane Frank, concert director and dance faculty, commented, “The choreography this year is unusually strong, not just in the dancing but in conceptual framework.”

While McKeon predicted a great audience turnout at this weekend’s performances, she also expressed concern that there may not be enough seats for everyone.

“Stanford Dance needs a big enough theater of its own!” McKeon exclaimed. Sitting nearby, Katherine Disenhof ’12 also agreed, with both commenting on how the athletic departments get far more recognition than dancers.

“I mean, we can also jump as high as basketball players,” Disenhof said jokingly.

Nonetheless, the performance is expected to be strong, captivating and entertaining, trumping any space available for the Stanford dancers.

“This is, by any standard, a concert that pushes the thresholds in highly engaging and theatrical ways,” Frank added.