The Dancers in Company will present its home concert, which explores the theme of water, in Space/Place.
By Claire Dietz | [email protected]
Formless, fluid, and unhesitating, the dancers invoke images of water gently flowing. In other moments, they become a strong force, embodying water’s power to bring about destruction, capable of ripping homes from their foundations.
As they glide along the stage, the dancers cross a screen intermittently showing a stormy sea, roaring or sweeping rivers, and bottled water emptying into a larger mass. Otherwise, the audience is left to focus on the dancers as they convey their meaning in the abstract manner only dance is capable of creating.
The University of Iowa Dancers in Company Home Concert will begin at 8 p.m. today in North Hall’s Space/Place and will continue through Saturday.
This year marks a first for Dancers in Company: The performance will center on an overarching theme, water.
Jessica Anthony, a codirector of Dancers in Company, said that because there are many relevant water issues in the media’s eyes right now, the concert may function as a political statement.
“[There is the] connection to the Iowa River, the sense of flood and drought, as well as the water-quality issues going on in Iowa and in the world,” Anthony said. “Water is so necessary for life; we are made of it, we can’t live without it. There are these compelling truths and metaphors about water, but it also has a great aesthetic. It felt important and timely.”
Throughout the fall semester, both dancers and choreographers had the opportunity to collaborate with many members of the UI community, including Elizabeth Christiansen, the director of the UI Office of Sustainability, and UI urban and regional planning Professor Charles Connerly, to learn more about the importance and necessity of water.
One of the most rewarding aspects so far, Anthony said, has been working closely with dancers and collaborators.
“[The dancers] have committed themselves fully to this process,” she said. “They’ve really dug into all the dance-making and research that has been presented … [The collaborators] have all been so gracious and generous with all the information they have. They’ve been willing to brainstorm and collaborate.”
Dancers in Company comprises 12 dancers who, after the home concert, will tour in various locations around Iowa and in Chicago. They will give performances at elementary schools, community colleges, museums, and theaters.
Fellow codirector and dance Assistant Professor Michael Sakamoto, who has toured for nearly 20 years, said this opportunity to travel as a company while still in school provides endless opportunities benefiting the dancers.
“Being on tour is a really intense, very detail-oriented, wonderful experience that takes a lot of work, a lot of planning,” Sakamoto said. “For me, what makes touring an amazing experience for young performers is that they have to step up their game, they have to be 100 percent focused, mature, and professional. They can’t waste time; they have to take responsibility, because you are out of the safety net, out of the nest, with only each other to rely on.
“This is all new for these dancers. They’ve never been on tour in any way, shape, or form, so it’s a professionalization process for them. They can say after they graduate, ‘I know what that intense experience is like.’ ”
The dancers also recognize the rigorous process this has been and will be, but know this will benefit them and the places they visit.
“All concerts come to an end on their final performance,” said junior Justin Gorgone. “However, our home show is just the beginning to our season. We have the opportunity to tour around Iowa over the next couple of months, performing our show several more times. We are able to participate in a lot of community outreach and share dance as an art form, as well as a means of learning.”
Junior Dorothy Armstrong hopes that the interdepartmental conversations will continue in order to create a more engaging performance.
“If we continue to foster the research component of Dancers in Company, that enables a wonderful cross-pollination between science and art,” she said. “That makes both disciplines richer and, of course, closer to one another in purpose. Collaboration is key.”
The introduction of an annual theme allows the dancers to become involved with the audience members in different ways, Anthony said.
“One of the missions of Dancers in Company is to take dance to diverse communities and operations throughout the state and region,” she said. “We’re bringing dance, but we’re also … engaging the audience with the theme of water.”
This year, Dancers in Company commissioned six choreographers, including guest choreographers Rennie Harris and Waewdao Sirisook.
Anthony was inspired by a story that changed the perceptions of a tale she had been told as a child.
“Iowa rivers used to run clear,” she said. “I was told they were always muddy, but I found out that wasn’t true. When prairie grass was here, it held so much sediment; but when we became a single crop culture, all the sediment, pollution, and runoff made the water dirty.
“I was struck by the potential for rivers to run clear here. I decided to work with the anatomy of rivers, their properties such as headwaters, tributaries, and meanders, and deltas to structure the piece. The piece starts in a tributary and ends in a delta. It’s both about the beauty and the movement of river.”
After nearly half a year’s work, Armstrong said the anticipation the company seems to feel is palpable.
“We’ve been working on these pieces since September 2015 — we’re all definitely ready to show the public the outcome of our thorough research and rehearsal,” she said.
Click here to check out a photo slideshow.
Dancers in Company Home Concert
When: 8 p.m. Today-Saturday