Bodies as Canvases – Masterminds Behind the Scenes

Photo courtesy of | On Feb 10th Smith’s Department of Dance presented “It’s Called The Fringe.”

Patience Kayira ’20
Contributing Writer

It takes valiant effort and athleticism to dance barefoot on the tips of one’s toes, high- demi pointe (in dance speech). Yes, there is no doubt that being a dancer requires high degrees of strength and perseverance. Yet it is the choreographer that creates the dance; one should not underestimate the power of a choreographer’s creative license. They are the masterminds behind the curtains.

On Feb. 10, Smith Department of Dance presented “It’s Called the Fringe,” a culmination of modern dance pieces rooted in narrative and reflective of societal themes. The performances were the thesis projects of four second year MFA candidates: Nicole DeWolfe, Rowan Salem, Stephanie Turner and Whitney Wilson.

The evening began with Stephanie Turner’s performance, “Ektropi,” in Acting Studio I with limited seating, while the rest of the performances took place in Theatre 14 at 8p.m. The performances were all electrifying and intriguing. The program began with Nicole DeWolfe’s  “It  Lies  in  the  Seams,”  followed  by  Whitney  Wilson’s  “We  Are  All  This,”  and concluded with Rowan Salem’s “Sightlines.”

Beginning with “It Lies In The Seams,” DeWolfe’s performance started with a series of chairs arranged in a thoughtfully disorganized pattern. The plain minimalist costumes of khaki colored pants and white tops allowed audience members to focus more on the dancers’ movements. Smith College’s Performing Arts webpage summarized DeWolfe’s project as “an exploration of how individuals unwittingly follow the movements of those around them.”

The narrative of DeWolfe’s performance certainly featured themes of a fight against conformity. All of the dancers moved smoothly across the stage during moments of unison; even their breathing was in sync. Each dancer successfully mirrored what the previous dancer did, but they all added something unique, whether it be tumbling on the floor, an extra turn or a different hand gesture. These actions ultimately communicated each dancer’s growing awareness of their differences, thereby resisting conformity. Each dancer did a phenomenal job of communicating emotions that matched with the soundtrack of tuning notes and strings.

In contrast, Wilson’s “We Are All This” had a seemingly straightforward story. Wilson’s project featured an illuminated LED screen with tinges of burnt orange and purple. It was comparatively much more colorful than DeWolfe’s. With a diverse group of dancers from multiple generations, the performance simulated the experience of living in a community. The opening featured a cluster of dancers sitting upright in the center of the stage with content facial expressions. The chirping in the soundtrack gave the impression of a nested insect community.

Yet as the dance went on, the seemingly amicable community encountered disagreement, tension and reconciliation. When two male dancers attempted to dance together, all of the other dancers inhaled sharply, indicating their shock. However, it appeared as though the community moved on from its initial alarm to acceptance and integration. Although Wilson’s project presented an easily digestible story, its call to action was complex.

Salem’s “Sightlines” was the most non-linear narrative of the performances. Featuring a group of eight dancers, Salem’s choreography also appeared to be the most challenging. To comply with the dance’s theme on how movement, imagination and landscape impact the human experience, each dancer wore earth tones. Every single performer had a keen sense of bodily awareness; their partnerwork was sharp, and each dancer moved to their fullest potential.

In addition to the movement, the dance featured a compelling voice over (“She’s cutting the situation into sections”) that paired with agile kicks and turns. As the curtains closed, audience members saw the quick movements of the dancer’s feet running hurriedly across the stage.

Overall, “It’s Called the Fringe” was a beautiful, artistic production. The choreography of each dance was well thought out and unique. Each MFA candidate presented narratives and patterns of societal issues. With the assistance of dancers and a stage crew, the choreography transformed the human body into an expressive canvas.

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