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February 20, 2009

UC Dancers’s annual show features modern choreography From All Sides

UC Dancers took over McCormick Lounge on Tuesday, offering free pizza and soda while a projector displayed images of past performances. The reason for the benevolent takeover? To preview UC Dancers’s upcoming show From All Sides, premiering tonight at Bartlett Arts Rehearsal Space (BARS).

From All Sides is the UC Dancers’s annual show, in which students not only dance, but also choreograph all of the numbers, with the exception of a piece choreographed by Kim Brooks Mata. Mata has danced with Company Chaddick in Austin, TX, and Ahdanco in San Francisco.

“At a university like this where there aren’t any official programs for dance, I really appreciate the desire to work with a professional choreographer,” Mata said. “There’s a lot of interest here, and no program. That’s why I wanted to come here.”

However, the main stars of the show are the students. According to fourth-year Sara Smithback, UC Dancers’s artistic director, the group tries “to maintain the tradition of letting anybody and everybody dance and choreograph.”

Last year, UC Dancers started performing in BARS. In response to the venue change, the show exhibits unusual creativity in both choreography and performance.

“We like this space…. it’s a more intimate dance setting,” said third-year Adrienne Schmoeker, the group’s administrative director.

In this show, UC Dancers focuses on creating a close relationship between the audience and the dancers. Schmoeker said audiences at From All Sides will see a more intimate type of student choreography.

“You get really close to the dancers; it’s a different type of dance experience,” she said.

In fact, audience members sit just inches away from the dancers, forcing them to consider the numbers much more intensely than if they were sitting in a more traditional, detached space like Mandel Hall.

The show’s title refers to the changes made to BARS in order to maximize visibility for the audience. Instead of viewing the dancers from the front, the audience surrounds them. For that reason, the choreography and performances must be visually coherent when viewed from any and every side. Dancers do not face one direction, but instead alternate and move around in various formations. Sometimes they circle the space or form diagonals to cut through it. Instead of limiting the choreography, the challenging space lends itself to creative solutions that maximize the impact of the dance on the audience.

The restrictions of the space also link the various numbers together. Despite the many choreographers, the show maintains a sense of unity.

“We try to pick some element for the choreographer to work with, and this year it’s the layout of the space and having to work all four sides,” Smithback said. “Beyond that, it is not fully integrated…to give as many students a chance to choreograph and dance.”

The choreography seems to play with the concept of the dancers’ role in the music.Throughout the performance, dancers clap their hands together, against their bodies, and on the floor. In one number, they breathe loudly in unison. In this way, UC Dancers seem to become a part of the music they are expressing with their bodies.

At times, individual dancers seem to imitate the beats of different instruments in the song. In one number the music stops completely, forcing the dancers to focus on each other to maintain their unison. In another number, there is no music at all.

All the numbers explore modern forms of dance. First-year Molly Green believes this will make the show more accessible.

“For people who have never seen dance before,” she said, “I think modern dance is a little easier [to appreciate] than some of the classical ones.”

In its 33 years on campus, UC Dancers has put on many shows in many different ways. What makes this show so captivating is the intimacy between the dancers and the audience. The power of that closeness is what will make this performance so memorable for all who attend it.