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December 13, 2007
The stage is dim -- the darkness reaches out and consumes the audience as it waits in anticipation. The backlights on the stage turn on, illuminating dancers clad in white. Slowly their bodies begin to move as they dance. The dancers' movements tell the story of what they see; a reflection of what they feel when they hear a piece of music.
Catherine Eardley, a professor in the University's dance department, describes the scene of students experimenting with this form of expression. "There are many 'fingerprints' on the work the audience is observing," she notes.
Moving to the rhythm of electronic music as well as purely classical and Afro-Caribbean beats, dozens of student dancers were in motion before the audience at this semester's campus Fall Dance Festival in Nightingale Concert Hall. The dancers performed pieces choreographed by the director of the program Barbara Land, guest choreographer Lulu Washington and fellow students.
Washington is founder of the Lulu Washington Dance Theater in Los Angeles. The theater is renowned for the incorporation of African-American experience and history in its performances. For the festival piece she choreographed with the campus dance ensemble, Washington incorporated Afro-Caribbean beats focusing on isolation of the hips. Together, the music and the choreography created a celebration of art as well as African daily life and culture.
Eardley said the students' work reflects not only the teaching, technique and guidance of the University's dance faculty, but also the collective experience of the student artists. "Dance is one of the most basic forms of communication," she said. "You can not separate a student's or an artist's work from their experiences."
The dancing during the festival's two days of performances last month ranged from strict isolations of movement to running across the stage, and also to hip-hop. With such a wide range of diversity in dance and in music, audiences expressively shouted and clapped resoundingly throughout the theatre.
"Success is reaching our students with new ways to think and communicate," Eardley said. "We set a level of excellence for them that they thought they would never reach -- and then stretched them even further.
"It is important to us that our audiences are introduced to forms of dance or movement that they might never have experienced before. We encouraged our students and audience members alike to think outside the box, look at communication in a different light and appreciate the paths to excellence. This year's Fall Dance Festival achieved all of those points."
For upcoming events, please visit the Performing Arts Series Web site or visit the Arts365 Calendar.