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dance: The Next Generation

VCU dance students show us what they've got this year.

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This year, the offerings are particularly diverse and promise audiences a taste of several different approaches to choreography and performance.

The dance majors themselves inspired much of the work presented in the concert. Guest artist Tere O'Connor created a piece that investigates different aspects of impressionism, by noting students' interpretations of his ideas. "We were part of the process," says dance major Samantha Speis. "He was specific about what he wanted, but he didn't want us to be just like him. We created a lot of the movement, and he added layers."

Assistant Professor Scott Putman adds visual layers to his piece with video as light rather than projection. He includes three video feeds at different angles on the stage to "create a 3-D environment that the dancers are moving through." Putman said he was fascinated by "the parallels of modern physics and Eastern philosophy," so he spent last summer in the company of physicists who were studying black holes and nanotechnologies. In his piece, 10 dancers explore elements of space and time, such as "how we understand history in order to understand the present and where we're going," he says.

Two student works examine the tensions between conflicting perspectives. Ashley Richmond's "Blink" looks at human society in opposition to human instinct, while Michael Haney's "losing a star without a sky" clashes neo-classicism with pop culture. "[It] creates a fantastical world viewed through a distorted lens," says Assistant Professor Katrina South Clemans.

In addition to the collaborations between students and teachers and dancers and choreographers, many of the works in this concert draw energy from live music or original scores. Dance Department Music Director Robbie Kinter leads nine dance students in a tribal drumming and dance piece. Musicians Cory Blake and Marc S. Langelier provide, "a live sound environment inspired by aboriginal Australia," says Clemans, for Associate Professor Judith Steel's newest work.

To this eclectic mix of choreography, music and multimedia, Professor Audrey Jung contributes a suite of three Hawaiian dance solos in honor of Hawaii's folk hero Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, as well as a traditional Chinese scarf dance performed by Jung with Korean dance major Hye-Jung Lee.

The diverse, and tightly packed program, will no doubt reflect the VCU's increasingly impressive reputation in the dance community. For these aspiring young choreographers, collaborating with professors and professionals is a unique opportunity. "He treated us as his peers, not just as tools," the excited Speis says about working with guest artist O'Connor. S



VCU Department of Dance and Choreography Student/Faculty Concert will take place at the Grace Street Theater, 934 W. Grace St., March 27-29 at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $10; general public, $8; seniors free to VCU students with valid ID. Call 828-2020.

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