with video: Ann Arbor Dance Works plans 25th anniversary concerts
photo by Peter Smith
Keeping track of the years can be difficult, as choreographer Jessica Fogel, a member of the University of Michigan dance faculty, found out a few years ago.
Back in 2004, she recalls, Ann Arbor Dance Works, the U-M dance faculty choregraphic collective, declared itself 20. Oops! Like parents trying to remember the age of an adult child, the founders were off one year. That’s how AADW gets to be 25 this season. “We didn’t form till the spring of 1985,” she said by phone last week. “I think we’ve got it right now.”
In fact, Dance Works has gotten it so right that it takes three nights of performances to accommodate all the choreographers and audience members who want to be there for the silver anniversary celebrations, set for June 10-12 at the Duderstadt Center Video Studio, on the U-M’s North Campus.
“This year,” said Fogel, who is artistic director of the show, “everyone wanted to choreograph something, it seemed. So we have works by seven resident choreographers and two guest artists. We’ve concocted programs so that the guest-artist works are seen every night, and everything else is seen twice.”
Faculty choreographers include Fogel, Melissa Beck Matjias, Amy Chavasse, Bill DeYoung, Peter Sparling, Sandra Torijano and Robin Wilson. The two guest artists, Emily Berry and Carolyn Dorfman, are U-M alumnae, and most of the dancers are participants in Ann Arbor Dance Works summer courses that expose them to the techniques and choreographic perspectives of faculty and guests alike.
Berry is not merely a dance alumna; she graduated from U-M in 1998 with degrees in dance, women's studies and political science. Fogel remembers Berry as an activist in her dances and in her approach to her career (she had a company of her own even in school, Fogel said), and Berry’s academic training shows up in works that take up topics like violence against women, or, as in “unnoticed,” the work she’ll present here, reactions to the earthquake in Haiti.
“I believe that art has the power to create change,” Berry says on the website for her New York-based company, B3W. “All of my choreography is related to this belief in some way.”
Berry also describes her work as “infused with meaning that often comes out in extremes of physicality. Most importantly is that the movement pours out of the dancers from the intention that is coming from within them. They have to be willing to go to the place within themselves and their experiences and allow the movement to come from that place, which gives them ownership.”
Guest artist Carolyn Dorfman is an earlier U-M graduate than Berry: She’s had her own company for 27 years now and is acclaimed for works that ponder the human condition. “Cat’s Cradle,” from 2007, is one such piece: Incorporating songs written at the Nazi concentration camp Theresienstadt by Isle Weber, it probes memory and “the ability of the human spirit to rise above its realities and continue to create and to dream,” as Dorfman put it. For Ann Arbor Dance Works’ show, she has set sections of the piece on a cast of five women and one man.
Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company perform the opening of “Cat’s Cradle”:
Berry and Dorfman’s dances run each night, with works by faculty choregraphers rotating in and out, for two viewings per piece. Here’s a rundown to help keep track of who’s on when:
- Melissa Beck Matjias (Thursday and Saturday): “How the Dark Water Flowed,” a duet exploring the kinetic ebb and flow of relationships, set to music of U-M Professor Emeritus Leslie Bassett.
- Amy Chavasse (Friday and Saturday): Her 2008 “plumpness,” in a new trio version for three women. A collaborative work using improvisatory structures.
- Bill DeYoung (Thursday and Saturday): A new, sure-to-be-virtuosic quartet.
- Jessica Fogel (Friday and Saturday): A mash-up collage of solos she’s made for Ann Arbor Dance Works over the past 25 years. Fogel and five other dancers probe reframing the past and conversing with multiple selves.
- Peter Sparling (Thursday and Saturday): A surreal video dance play that features Sparling as narrator and subject in T. S. Eliot's retelling of the Narcissus myth set to music by Benjamin Britten. Filmed against greenscreen, Sparling's constantly morphing persona dances against a series of inserted backdrops by painter Alyse Radenovic.
- Sandra Torijano (Thursday and Friday): A solo for dancer Sadie Yarrington.
- Robin Wilson (Thursday and Friday): A revival of her 2007 work “Small Treasures,” presents six dancers and the beautiful voices of Chanticleer singing Franz Biebl’s “Ave Maria.”