Our bodies are capable of incredible things, although the monotony of everyday activity makes us forget their true potential.
These extraordinary capacities have been realized by the 12 members of the UVU Contemporary Dance Ensemble, as they exhibited their aptitude for physical artistry March 4 —6 in their performance of “Structures”.
The ensemble was founded in 2006 by Doris Hudson de Trujillo, Associate Professor of Dance at UVU, as a pre-professional modern dance course and company.
“The class is really structured as a way for our students to become skilled in performance,” de Trujillo said. “The real intent is that the students have practical experience in what it would be like to be part of a professional company. It prepares them if that is the pathway that they want to pursue in their lives, in addition many in the company are also dance education majors so they are also being prepared to be at a very high level.”
Ensemble members must audition and be chosen to participate in the company as well as in pieces performed in each year’s production. Many dancers performed in four, five or six of the total seven pieces.
“They are all very eager to be in as many works as they feel they physically can endure. They have built great endurance and that is one objective we have in our technique classes as well as our performance classes,” de Trujillo said. “I stress that they perform in rehearsal and that they think about the studio in the same way that they would if they were on stage and that is what prepares them more than anything.”
The theme woven throughout “Structures” was one of authentic human existence and sociality. Each choreographer found a unique avenue to explore in terms of movement and concept centered around this common vision.
The first number, titled “Untethered” was conceived by Monica Campbell, an adjunct faculty member at UVU with years of training and professional experience. The dancers portrayed the fierce yet fluent choreography, seeming to center around a dividing line of prop boxes which they danced upon and around until at the end they pushed the segments apart. The piece seemed to be an exploration of space as well as the movement and structure therein.
The second piece was choreographed by Stephen Koester, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Modern Dance at the University of Utah. “Machina,” originally a tag team duet, was expanded to specifically fit the ensemble. The dancers moved agilely to the rave-like music as different sets of them continually entered and exited the stage in perpetual interactive motion.
“Sculpting Solidarity” came next, choreographed by the brilliant Heather College Gray who has been involved with many prestigious companies and performances as both dancer and choreographer. The piece was tribal and organic, with the majority usually dancing in graceful unison as a few would break free from the uniformity and portray a wildness not exhibited by the group.
Coming from the Congo, Titos Sompa is the founder and Artistic Director of Mbongi Dance Theater Project. He represents his perspective towards African life through choreography. His piece titled “Kisingu” was characterized by vibrant colors, live hand drumming and energetic dancing.
A seeming social commentary, “Bridge”, choreographed by Ririe-Woodbury Artistic Director Charlotte Boye-Christensen, depicts the social division between men and women. This dichotomy, represented by light in the piece, is often traversed which results in an interaction of the sexes which calls into question their construction.
“In Between Counts” was choreographed by Todd Allen, a part time instructor at NYU who has performed with many renowned companies. The music accompanying the piece reflected childhood and mothering, but also technological noise which seemed to represent contemporary motherhood and its many challenges. Each of the eight dancers did a fantastic job at embodying the choreography.
The final number and brainchild of de Trujillo was titled “The Other Side” and involved every member of the ensemble. Utilizing inanimate props as well as each other, the dancers marvelously constructed and deconstructed various formations from which audience members could insinuate meaning.
“My piece really began with how walls separate individuals and the emotional and social effect it has when we physically divide a space, a country and individuals,” de Trujillo said. “I was greatly impacted when I went to San Diego and viewed the wall between the U.S. and Mexico. I then went to Europe and saw decaying walls that divided people so it was a very interesting concept to me. It began to be not about a particular place but a little bit more abstract in terms of walls that are not even physical walls but barriers that we create between us as humans.”
Stressing that dance is an art form to be interpreted by viewers rather than to be set out plainly, de Trujillo and the other choreographers place great importance on individual experience influencing their interpretation of their work.
“We all come to a place that is very different based on our prior experiences. I think it’s got to talk to an individual, it should have the capacity to communicate,” de Trujillo said.
Each performance was individually phenomenal owing to the excellent choreography and dancing. Make sure to keep up with the dance department at www.uvu.edu/dance/ and support them in their upcoming performances which are sure to be incredible.