A Weekend of Dance at Mount Holyoke College

Marissa Hank ’20
Assistant Arts Editor

Mount Holyoke College’s annual Fall Faculty Dance Concert was held from Nov. 10 to Nov. 12. Dancers from the Five College Dance Department were eligible to audition and perform. The variety of dancers ranged from the Smith department of dance graduate students to freshman dancers from UMass Amherst. Dancers were also chosen from the Mount Holyoke dance department and the Massachusetts Academy of Ballet. Five pieces were performed, each of which explored different forms of dance, yet all were connected by their ability to portray a story.    

The first piece performed was a re-imagined excerpt from a Bill T. Jones piece titled “Story/Time.” Ten dancers crafted an artistic experience through modern dance and storytelling. The movements of this piece incorporated a lot of running and the use of circular motion. In various moments throughout the piece, the choreography looked like organized chaos.

“Juxtapose” was the second dance performed and was choreographed by Rose and Charles Flachs. The program handed out to audience members stated, “Juxtapose began as a movement experiment examining internal and external focus within different age groups and has developed into a work expressing the serious as well as light-hearted human experience.”

In this piece, dancers ranged in age from middle school aged to college aged. Dancers from the Five College Dance Department and the Massachusetts Academy of Ballet danced together to truly illustrate how dance is an art form that connects people of all ages. When asked about “Juxtapose,” Phoebe Little ’20, said, “I thought the theme of contrast was very effective and made for a visually striking piece.” This piece incorporated the theme of age to explain the human condition.

Choreographed and performed by Candice Salyers, “Yours,” was the third piece in the concert. “Yours” used themes of sainthood, religion and love to tell the story of a relationship. In the first few minutes of the piece Slayers danced in silence. As the work unfolded, Slayers began to verbally tell a story while dancing. Her movements reflected her emotion and, in a literal sense, carried the story forward. She was dressed all in white to further symbolize the idea of purity, sainthood and religion.

Toward the end of her piece, Slayers slowly walked backward as the lights dimmed and music began to play. At this moment, the ushers walked to each row and passed out thank you cards that read, “Thank you for the gift of your presence.” After everyone was given a card, the lights turned off and the piece left the audience with a sense of gratitude and love. This work was by far the most original and interactive dance of the evening.

“Welcome Here” was the fourth piece in the concert featuring twelve first-year performers from Mount Holyoke College. As described in the program, the performers of this piece were “together recognizing the anxious yet heroic challenge of arrival.” The piece opened with solos by each dancer, while the performers both onstage and behind the curtain yelled the name of the student dancing and encouraging words such as “you go” or “work it.” This piece involved a lot of interaction, both physical and verbal, between the dancers on stage. Many times throughout the piece, dancers would be carried, lifted or held hands.

Toward the end of the piece, the dancers formed a horizontal line across the stage and said the name of each dancer while doing a certain movement. This continued until every name was said and then repeated various times. As each dancer heard their name, they would step forward until a new line was formed closer to the audience. This transition from the back of the stage to the front represented the transition into adulthood, from high school into college.

The finale of the concert was a hip-hop version of Stravinsky’s famous “Firebird Suite.” Choreographed by Jennifer Weber and assisted by Rosanna Karabetsos, “The Firebird” used video animation and dance to retell the story of the firebird. The cast consisted of the firebird, the prince and an ensemble of trees. An interesting aspect of the cast is in the original ballet the firebird is female and the prince is male. In this re-imagined version not only was the genre switched to hip-hop but the firebird was danced by a man and the prince was danced by a female.

The whimsical performance of this piece added to the gender reversal allowed this piece to tell a story the show had yet to explore thus far. All the dances up until the last act dealt with heavy topics, but this piece allowed the concert to end on a joyful note. The audience was able to celebrate as the prince and firebird gained victory. There could not have been a more pleasant ending to an extraordinary evening full of storytelling expressed in different forms.

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