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A collaborative senior dance thesis

The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Dance will present Re[verb], a collaborative dance concert showcasing new choreography by students along with repertory by professional guest choreographers and faculty, on Friday, April 11, at 8:00 p.m. and Saturday, April 12, at 2:00 and 8:00 p.m. A group of over 30 students will perform works by internationally acclaimed choreographers Zvi Gotheiner and Jessica Lang, premiere a new work by New York choreographer and faculty member John Heginbotham, and perform new dances by seniors Tess Bernhard, Casey Brown, Samantha Gebb, and Sarah Rose.

The dance certificate program requires students to undertake a rigorous course of study that can include courses in modern, contemporary, ballet, experimental and African dance techniques, choreography, dance theory and history, and dance writing along with performance opportunities which include the Spring Dance Festival held in February. The dance certificate is in addition to a student’s major area of study. Re[verb] is an opportunity for seniors to collaborate on producing their own choreography and to work with professional choreographers. Students also have the opportunity to collaborate with award-winning lighting designer Aaron Copp and costume designer Mary Jo Mecca.

“This is a wonderfully talented group of seniors,” states Susan Marshall, Director of the Program in Dance, “They have put together a fun, elegant and thought-provoking evening of dance.”

Each year the Program in Dance presents a work featuring all the seniors as performers. This year eight seniors will perform two excerpts from Zvi Gotheiner’s Chairs, which his company, Zvi Gotheiner & Dancers, premiered in 1991. Gotheiner notes that Chairs is the first work that he choreographed in which he did not dance, and created at a time when he felt it was time for him to stop performing and to “sit down,” the chairs being symbolic of that decision. Gotheiner, a native Israeli, experimented with different kinds of groupings for Chairs—solos, duets, trios, quartets and quintets—noting the dance pertains to the concept of individuality vs. conformity and the conflict of wills.

An excerpt from Jessica Lang’s Crossed will be performed by Chloe Cheney-Rice and Paige Hupy, staged by Kanji Segawa. The work was originally commissioned by the Joffrey Ballet in 2010. The excerpt is choreographed to Handel’s setting of Psalm 110 in Latin, Dixit Dominus: De torrente in via bibet. Cheney-Rice is a sociology major and Hupy is majoring in politics.

A new duet by John Heginbotham will feature seniors Maya Kelley and Meghan Angelos. Titled Ophelias, the dance is set to Yo Shakespeare, composed by Michael Gordon, co-founder of the new music ensemble Bang on a Can. Ophelias explores the idea of a single identity that has been fractured. While the divided character may or may not be Shakespeare’s Ophelia, the notion of a figure in and out of sync with herself is at the heart of the duet. Kelley is majoring in mechanical engineering and Angelos is an art and archeology major.

Dances created by students includes five works by Casey Brown: No, Rated E for Everyone, Comedia, Witness, and Woh-Down, which will be scattered throughout the program. “These pieces offer a glimpse into different worlds motivated by questions and gaps in understanding which have been translated onstage,” notes Brown, an English major. “When does absurdity become ‘too true?’ Who is the soloist and who is the director? How many different ways can one person refuse something? What does a little swan have in common with the President of the United States? What happens when ‘too cute’ gets a little ‘too close?’ How do we deal with memory? Have you ever seen your family go crazy at a wedding, and wasn’t that amazing?”

In Semblance, Tess Bernhard, an ecology and evolutionary biology major, investigates the experience of being an individual in an assimilated group. While studying biology and the origins of life, she notes she has become fascinated with how crucial both synchrony and cooperation are to biological function at every level of complexity, from neurons firing, to birds flocking, to communities of people thriving. Yet this group functionality comes at a price, she notes; it robs the individual of their fullest expression of their selves. Using dance to illustrate this phenomenon, Bernhard juxtaposes highly choreographed group dynamics with instances of individual expression sourced from the dancers’ own daily lives, night lives, Facebook and Twitter presences, and intuitions. Semblance illustrates a self-awareness and self-destruction of the façade of performance from the inside out.

Amphion is choreographed by Samantha Gebb, an architecture major. The piece features original music composed by the Program in Dance’s Music Director Vince di Mura, which will be performed live on viola and cello by fellow architecture majors Tien Chen and Greta Hayes. “Originally inspired by visual artist Anthony McCall and his work with projected geometric forms in large interactive spaces, I wanted to create a world on stage that would be in a constant state of flux, both in itself and in relation to its inhabitants,” explains Gebb. She notes that this world is simultaneously constructed and inhabited by the dancers, creating a continual feedback loop. Light and movement combine in the piece to make inhabitable shapes that are always shifting, colliding, and morphing. The dance is built upon complex structures of synchronization, deviation, following, and cueing to achieve this quality of space-making always in flux. Last fall, Gebb designed and built a sculpture that was a creative exploration of the theoretical ideas in her senior thesis in architecture, an echo of which forms the world for the musicians in her piece.

Sarah Rose’s Looped began from the idea of exploring pedestrian and abstract movement. “I wanted to discover if I could manipulate the perception of movement by altering the context,” notes the classics major. “The world of the piece developed from these initial ideas, which I explored with my eight dancers through improvisation.” The dance is set to an original sound score by di Mura influenced by the music of The Velvet Underground. “With the score, Vince aimed to create the sensation of walking across campus through a span of forty years,” explains Rose.

Tickets for Re[verb] are $15 general admission, $10 for students and seniors, and are available through the McCarter box office at 609.258.2787 or at the theater prior to each performance.

Event Information


Friday, April 11, 2014
8:00 p.m.

Saturday, April 12, 2014
2:00 & 8:00 p.m.


Berlind Theatre at McCarter Theatre Center


TICKETS $15, $10 students/seniors. Call McCarter Box Office at 609.258.2787




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