Trespassing into being: ‘Of Being and Seeing’ to showcase MFA dance theses

Trespassing into being: Of Being and Seeing to showcase MFA dance theses

An oblivion of black fades to a stage of mist, lit by shifting lights opening behind five dancers. They are slow to enter this new expanse, hesitant. Electric growls warn them away, yet eventually, with timid tenacity, they trespass.

So begins Of Being and Seeing, the M.F.A. Thesis Dance Concert in Space/Place, running today through Saturday.

“Much of the show is self-referential in nature, where our performance work is drawn from our real-life experiences,” said M.F.A. candidate Melanie Swihart. “Hence the title Of Being and Seeing; the ‘being’ is what we as performers draw from in our life, and the ‘seeing’ is what the audience experiences as we perform.”

Her piece, “I See You,” includes segments of improvised dance and monologue.

“I’m most vulnerable when I talk on stage about something I care about,” she said. “The monologue allows my words to be a reflection of what my body just went through.”

Part of her thesis includes exploring the idea of “being a vulnerable body on stage.” Swihart’s fascination with vulnerability began while recovering from a dance-hindering injury.

“I had to learn how to move in a new body,” she said. “Doing stuff I knew I should be able to do, but my body wasn’t quite permitting.”

Also on the performance track is Amy Simonson, dancing in “Flood” with four other dancers, among whom is Rebekah Chappell, the piece’s choreographer.

As a member of the choreography track, Chappell had to create 20 minutes of original material. While “Rising Tide” (her other piece) is a restructured work from her previous semester, Flood is a new work.

Chappell implemented improvisation heavily to craft the dance’s structure. She often called a pause to practices to allow dancers to reflect on what was and wasn’t working and make the most effective decisions for the piece.

“We wanted to explore this idea of the audience as a witness instead of a spectator,” Chappell said. “In ‘Flood,’ we are dancing in order to figure something out, to arrive at a new way of being in the world. How can we be true to ourselves while also knowing that what we are doing is being watched by a group of people?”

This concept of “the audience as a witness” centers the show. The dancers want the audience to witness the vulnerability of a singular body, the potency of dreamlike nostalgia, the flooding of physicality.

“It’s time to allow others to witness and become a part of this performance,” Chappell said.

DANCE
Of Being and Seeing, Graduate Dance Thesis Concert
Where: Space/Place
When: 8 p.m. today-Saturday
Admission: $12 general, free with UI ID

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