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Bridging town and gown through dance

Bridging town and gown through dance

By Gary Ferrington

There has often been a social and cultural distance between an institution of higher education and the city that surrounds it. This detachment between town and gown dates back to the European Middle Ages when academic and non-academic worlds often eyed each other with some sense of conflict and mutual suspicion.

Fortunately, there is far less distance these days as more academic centers and local communities find unique opportunities to become mutually engaged in social and economic projects, research, and artistic efforts. Interplaya collaborative project of the University of Oregon School of Music and Dance Department and the Eugene Ballet Company, provides evidence of this in a March 8-10 production.

Shannon Mockli and Suzanne Haag collaborated on "Between Your Eyes and You" Photo courtesy of UO School of Music and Dance

Shannon Mockli and Suzanne Haag collaborated on “Between Your Eyes and You” Photo courtesy of UO School of Music and Dance.

The idea behind Interplay, the way in which two or more things have an effect on each other, is to explore ways in which four choreographers from the university and three from the Eugene Ballet, along with dancers from both organizations, can become creatively engaged with one another and share the results with audiences in the intimate environment of the Soreng Theater at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts.

Interplay includes new works, some with original music, and the revival of other pieces that reflect the creative and expressive spirit of regional dancers, choreographers, and composers.

Steven J. Chatfield’s new piece “Bach to Bach” is the second in a series of experiments that he is doing that juxtaposes sound and movement to see how observer perceptions shift when subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, things change. “The first experiment was doing the same movement against several different soundtracks.” said UO Department of Dance Head Chair Chatfield. “Often times people were not even aware that a movement was being repeated because the soundtracks were so vastly different.”

One of those soundtracks was Bach’s Prelude from the Cello Suite Number 1 in G Major. “We enjoyed this piece so much that we decided to try a second experiment.” This experiment, which is the piece being prepared for Interplay, “will repeat Bach’s prelude three times and with it we will do slightly different movements. We will modify qualities and gestures seeking to see if the observer’s perception shifts along with the changing subtleties of movement even though the soundtrack is precisely the same.”

Associate Professor of Dance Walter Kennedy and UO Dance Department Music Director Christian Cherry have collaborated in the reconstruction of a piece first performed in 2011. Cherry chose the title Whorl after a plant leaf pattern where the leaves are arranged around a node on the stalk in a whorl. In this piece the dancers dance in a whorl of competitive spirit to a score of tablas played and sampled by Cherry, with electric guitar and synthesizer textures in different temporal spaces. “This sonic space is designed to envelop the dancers and to give them a range of time frames to dance in and against,” Cherry told ArtsWatch.

Click here to read more about Interplay at Oregon Artswatch. 

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