By Samantha Brandbergh and Gianluca D’Elia
Sounds of African drums and chirping crickets echoed through the Bart Luedeke Center Theater during the Rider Dances performance of “Light and Motion” on March 3.
The showcase featured six dances, each inspired by and related to paintings. The art was selected by Todd Loyd, the lighting director, and the choreographers were then met with the task of creating a dance related to the pieces.
“Light and Motion” took a more abstract approach to dance by dividing the pieces into parts, each exhibiting different emotions and meanings. Visuals also served as a large component of the performance, with the paintings themselves or real-time footage of the performances projected behind the dancers.
“It was a really enjoyable modern dance show,” said freshman dance performance major Cara Buchanan. “As a freshman, I’ve never done anything like it before coming to Rider, but I was so pleased with the outcome, and I feel like I grew a lot.”
The show began with the dance “Ascending (With Clothes On),” choreographed by Kim Vaccaro, professor of dance. The piece was inspired by the painting “Nude Descending A Staircase, No. 2” by Marcel Duchamp.
The painting, according to Vaccaro, was Duchamp’s reaction to one of the first movies made in the late 1880s. Accompanied by the futuristic music composed by sophomore popular music studies major Mia Reiser, the piece incorporated swift, sharp movements and tap. The dancers also utilized a large staircase on the right side of the stage, which had an important symbolic meaning.
“I reacted to [Duchamp’s] piece by bringing the angles and colors to life, and relating it to our current ascension of women as we are seeing in the #MeToo movement, the striking teachers in West Virginia, and waves of women entering politics,” Vaccaro said. “The dancers were women in the future — strong, elegant, confident, in control of their own bodies and supportive of each other.”
These ideas were emulated in the piece; as a dancer leaned or thrusted themselves backward, another dancer was always there to catch them and bring them back to their feet.
Female empowerment was a consistent theme in “Light and Motion,” and the piece “Bill’s Song,” choreographed by Professor of Dance History Christine Colosimo, exemplified that with the help of white sheets.
The dance was inspired by the painting “Christina’s World” by Andrew Wyeth and incorporated nature sounds — crickets, cicadas and wind — modern music by Billy Joel and Styx, and visuals produced by sophomore environmental science major Kristen Castronuovo.
“What is most interesting to me about the painting is that you never see her face,” Colosimo said. “The mystery of who this woman is and what she is doing in the middle of a field was the start of my choreographic ideas. After doing some basic research, I found out that she was a real woman who could not walk and had no use of the lower part of her body.”
As the nature sounds played, three large, square white sheets hung in front of lights on the stage. Three dancers laid in front of the sheets and only used their upper bodies, similar to the woman in the painting, while three other women danced behind them, creating shadows. These shadows, according to Colosimo, represented the “desires” of Christina, including the desire to have functional legs, but also “universal things we all want, like happiness, health, love.”
The piece transitioned into the solo performance by senior dance performance major Courtney Booker, who ran, spun and leapt across the stage, sometimes holding a white sheet above her head. This represented the fluidity of movement and the feeling of wind, something Wyeth always aimed to capture in his work.
“Most people take it for granted that you could run into a field and feel the joy of running fast, with the wind in your hair, but not Christina,” Colosimo said. “Thus, the dance took on the idea of wanting something you can’t have: the unattainable.”
While the third section of the dance resembled death or “returning home,” according to Colosimo, the final portion brought on a more joyous feeling. Each dancer took turns running, jumping into mid-air splits and leaping from one side of the stage to the other, taking full advantage of their working legs.
Set to “Come Sail Away” by Styx, this section of the piece resembled the afterlife. Bright, crisp colors engulfed the stage as white sheets flowed, radiating angelic and spiritual themes.
“The process of letting go or dying can seem scary, but I think in the end, the angels come and we all ‘sail away’ to paradise,” Colosimo said.
The next dance, “Curtains of Semblance,” emulated “La Victoire” by René Magritte, 1939. The painting depicts a door blended into a landscape of a beach, an ocean and a blue sky.
Magritte, the artist, once said, “We are surrounded by curtains. We only perceive the world behind a curtain of semblance. At the same time, an object needs to be covered in order to be recognized at all.” The dance, set to music from contemporary composer Max Richter’s recomposition of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” attempted to take down the “curtains” — or in this case, the door — between two different worlds.
Choreographer Jennifer Gladney said that when she introduced the piece, she told the dancers to think, “What if the one door is the life you’re living now and the other is the life you wish you had, even if you love this life? And what if those lives could cross paths and exist together in some perfect fantasy land?”
The sound of frantically teetering violins built a sense of tension as dancers Christine DiBrita and Melissa Rasimowicz led the ensemble. The dancers, dressed in bright blue and turquoise, slipped in and out of two doors on the stage.
One of the most unique parts of the show was the final number, “Arrival,” inspired by a painting titled “The Slave Ship.” In a vibrant celebration of African culture with bright red, yellow and purple lighting throughout, Brazilian-American drummer Robson Alves led the group of female dancers. With Alves’ drum beats and chants as a guide, they paraded down the aisles of the theater, imitating the motion of rowing a ship. One of the highlights of this segment was when senior dance major Amira Davis showed off some freestyle moves.
Senior dance major Julia Weiss said “Light and Motion” was the perfect ending to her four years of performing.
“Overall, my experience at the Rider Dances ‘Light and Motion’ show was amazing,” she said. “I will miss all of the people I have met along the way that have become like a family to me.”
Published in the 03/08/17 edition.