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Pleiades, a Senior Thesis Dance Performance by Seven Princeton University Students
Overview|Press Release

(Princeton, NJ) The Lewis Center for the Arts is proud to present Pleiades, a dance concert featuring choreography and performance by seven senior certificate students in the Program in Theater and Dance. The concert will also feature the company repertoire of the New York based dance company Terrain, accompanied by music by the internationally acclaimed Brentano String Quartet. Pleiades will be performed at 8 p.m. at the Berlind Theatre at McCarter Theatre Center on Friday and Saturday, March 27 – 28.

The seven students -- Stephanie Chen, Chelsea Kolff, Amy LaViers, Sarah Outhwaite, Julie Rubinger, Jennie Scholick and Elizabeth Schwall -- are among a select group of Princeton University students who elect to do a second thesis that involves choreography and performance. “Tackling a second thesis is a tremendous time commitment,” said Rebecca Lazier, Acting Head of Dance at Princeton.  “And since this creative thesis does not count towards our students’ academic credit, many people have questioned why someone would take on the extraordinary effort involved in creating and producing an evening of work? My only answer is: passion.  These students exemplify the Princeton experience of following one’s dreams and being the author of one’s life. They also personify the motto of the Lewis Center for the Arts, ‘Princeton in the service of the imagination.’”

Drawing on her major in computer science, Stephanie Chen presents a piece that merges technology and dance. In this solo, wireless accelerometers attached to the dancer interface with a computer that processes data about the dancer's motion and renders graphics based on her efforts. The result is stunning marriage of visual projection and dance that explores the idea of rebellion. Chen’s other piece creates a whimsical world combining illusion and dance through the use of props and careful staging.

As an Ecology and Evolutionary Biology major, Chelsea Kolff is intrigued by the movement quality of animals.  Her trio, “Wave,” explores the myriad of movement qualities seen in nature and the forces of the underwater world: each movement requires specificity and efficiency that is tailored to the evolutionary purpose and behaviors of each creature.  Kolff’s inspiration is the animals she researched for her academic thesis, including the bottlenose dolphins she observed during a summer spent at the National Aquarium in Baltimore in addition to many other animals. She will also presents a solo about gaining confidence in a dance -- pushing, pulling and learning to move past the things that restrain us.

Amy LaViers performs a solo she choreographed through the exploration of the body’s physical reaction to anger.  She is accompanied by musicians Vince and Dré di Mura, who play a score composed by Vince di Mura based on a traditional Nigerian hymn and jazz improvisation.  The final section of the work features dancers with no formal training.  Their performance demonstrates that movement can be a universal channel for the experience and expression of emotion and illustrates LaVier’s desire for each audience member to connect with the work.  LaVier studies patterns in human movement and dance for her academic thesis in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering department.
Sarah Outhwaite, a Comparative Literature major, choreographs and performs in "Signal and Noise," a solo that comes up against the limits of communication over great distances. Does a voice sent in pieces from the opposite side of the earth make the living body who receives it more or less alone? With music created in remote collaboration with Vince di Mura, from text and sound sent from Cambodia, "Signal and Noise" becomes a practical experiment in the instantaneous but difficult connection between people far away.

Julie Rubinger's solo, "Gradient," explores the act of performing with rich, passionate movement that juxtaposes extreme tension with billowy softness.  In another piece, "Hotaru," danced to the live music of John Preston '11 and Fletcher Heisler '10, Rubinger, an East Asian Studies major, uses six female dancers to portray a startling twist on the typical "loss of innocence theme."  Shifting between intimate partnering and solos that identify individuality, the piece attempts to find unity among the group.

Jennie Scholick, a Comparative Literature concentrator with a certificate in European Cultural Studies, is presenting two pieces.  The first, “For One to See the Other,” is a duet co-choreographed with Kelsey Berry '10 which explores the terrain of an unnamed relationship.  The second, “Things She Carried,” is a solo that explores the idea of nostalgia, memory, and time.  A series of themes and variations based on popular music, but performed to Princeton professor Paul Lansky’s score of the same name, this piece investigates the power of music to give meaning to dance.

Elizabeth Schwall, a History major with certificates in Dance and Latin American Studies, presents a group piece, "From the Tumult, Caravan Up." Choreographed to the song, "Hafsól" by Sigur Rós, the piece is a study in unsteadiness, as nine dancers make their way shakily onto stage, only to fall as they attempt to reach ever higher. Solidarity flows from shared instability and provides an element of support in this world of abandon.

In addition to their own choreography, the seven senior students will also perform “Vanish,” choreographed by Rebecca Lazier, Acting Head of Dance at Princeton. “Vanish” was commissioned by the Scotia Festival of Music in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where it premiered in 2001.  It is an extravagant and detailed physical kaleidoscope where bodies fly across space and lurch onto each other.  Beneath the music of alternating frenzied and soothing strings, performed by the Brentano String Quartet, “Vanish” creates a world where the dancers abandon gravity with breathtaking lightness.

Tickets for Pleiades are $10 for students and seniors and $15 for adults. For advance tickets please call University Ticketing at 609.258.9220 or the Berlind Box Office at 609.258.2787.

The Lewis Center for the Arts is part of a major initiative announced by President Shirley M. Tilghman in 2006 to fully embrace the arts as an essential part of the educational experience for all who study and teach at Princeton University. The Lewis Center for the Arts will have a significant impact on the University and the larger community it serves. The public is welcomed to a full range of lectures, exhibitions, concerts and performances at the Center. Many of the Center’s events are free or charge a nominal admission fee.

Media Contact

Marguerite d’Aprile-Smith
Director of Communications
Lewis Center for the Arts

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