A dancer manipulates the mediums of space, time and energy to create their routine.
This is the way Courtney Harris, VCU assistant professor and creative director for VCU Dance NOW, described choreography.
This concept will be brought to life at VCU’s annual Dance NOW performance, which will showcase VCU students dancing to routines choreographed by faculty, as well as pieces by guest choreographers such as Dawn Marie Bazemore and Doug Varone.
This event is a way for VCU professors to showcase their creative work. According to Harris, creativity is just as important to VCU Dance and Choreography as the technical skills.
There will be eight performances, including “The Slender Grace of Water” by associate professor Judith Steel, “Dying/IN” by guest choreographer Bazemore and “This Borrowed Time” by faculty music director Robbie Kinter. Although most of the contributing choreographers are faculty, guest choreographers Varone and Bazemore will be creating routines as well.
Varone is a critically acclaimed choreographer and the founder of Doug Varone and Dancers Company in New York City. From Israel to Japan, Varone’s work has been showcased and commissioned around the world, as well as in the U.S.
“We’re really honored to have him on campus and also to drop into his work,” Harris said.
Bazemore was the artist in residence for the dance department this past fall semester, a program that allows guest choreographers to teach repertory classes and work with students on performances. She performed as the principal dancer for the dance company Philadanco in Philadelphia for 10 years. Bazemore now teaches modern dance at the Berks Ballet Theatre Conservatory of Dance in Pennsylvania.
Harris said many of the dance pieces that will be shown have more abstract ideas and themes rather than a set narrative with characters. Some dance pieces may have more apparent themes than others. Doug Varone’s piece, titled “DEMOCRACY,” explores how the U.S. government system sometimes fails.
“It’s not necessarily showing a pie in the sky example of democracy,” Harris said, “but shows how it isn’t always working in our culture.”
Varone’s piece uses blocky movements and harsh music to get its point across.
Harris said dance can be analyzed like text, certain movements have specific connotations. One knows to shake a hand when it is extended to them, simply due to the meaning of the gesture. Therefore, Harris said, if you see a repetitive movement in a dance performance, the choreography is probably trying to use it to get a point across.
Harris said with these pieces with deeper themes, the audience is encouraged to “experience what they experience and feel what they feel.”
Most performances have themes and motifs, but others are simply meant to be, as Harris said, “movement for movement’s sake.”
A piece that will give a clear example of this is “Diamonds in the Water” by Melanie Richards. Harris said it’s not meant to express any specific ideas, it’s simply meant to be enjoyed.
If you’d like to perform in VCU Dance NOW next year the last two auditions for the 2015-2016 performance will be held on Feb. 20 and 27. The auditions are restricted to students in the dance department. For more information on the application and audition process visit arts.vcu.edu/apply.
The event will take place from Feb. 19 to 21, at 8 p.m. in the Grace Street Theater with an additional 2 p.m. Saturday matinee. Tickets will be $20 general admission and $15 for students with a valid ID.