Prof. Byron Suber, dance, has named his new dance company “edgeofthegorge” — a name he says is not intended as a comment on Cornell’s history of suicide from Ithaca’s iconic gorges.
While Suber acknowledged that the name edgeofthegorge could be perceived as a reference to Cornell’s history of suicides and accidental deaths in its gorges, he said he did not believe that interpretation of the name should define the company.
“There are always a multiplicity of meanings … that can emerge from extra-linguistic forms of communication, like abstract dance,” Suber said. “The topic of suicide and its presence at Cornell is an extremely important issue, but it is not something we are ever intending to directly address artistically.”
Suber said the company will “explore creative work that is more on edge and riskier than what has been available to us in the past” — part of the reason he gave the group its potentially controversial name.
Tabea Hoffstaetter ’15, a member of the new company agreed that the name could have multiple interpretations.
“It’s a lot more satisfying than going to the gym,” she added. “You exercise more than just your body — it’s also your mind.”
Like Suber, Hoffstaetter praised the many potential interpretations of the dance company’s name.
“The name could very well be connected to Cornell’s suicides. However, the name can also [mean] ‘to live life on the edge,’ which generally has a positive connotation,” Hoffstaetter said. “It is truly provocative and can be interpreted in so many different ways, [but] controversy often times produces curiosity among people, which I think in our case can only help.”
Currently, the company has been rehearsing Suber’s renditions of the first and second movements of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello — a collection of some of Bach’s most famous solo compositions.
Hoffstaetter said she has performed Suber’s choreography for the number twice before: in his class last semester and during her five years as part of the Ithaca Ballet company.
“It is undoubtedly very original and entirely [Suber]. He has done this choreography many times,” Hoffstaetter said.
Hoffstaetter noted that the piece is “physically very difficult to dance and can be mentally perplexing.” Still, she said the choreography is “very fun to dance” and she looks forward to rehearsal each week.
The dance company is the first at Cornell to combine classwork with extracurricular activity. It operates in conjunction with Suber’s course, Transpositioning the Body.
Students can earn between one and three credits, depending on their involvement in the company, for attending two rehearsals each week. Meetings outside of schedule class time, including performances, are extra-curricular responsibilities.
“They’re getting credit for the rehearsals they do, but the performances and going out and doing the actual work in public are extracurricular,” Suber said. “I think it’s different for them to do something that’s supported or at least acknowledged by Cornell and the department.”
The extracurricular aspects of the company are funded through the Cornell Council for the Arts on a project-based need, while rehearsals are held during class time and do not incur an additional cost, according to Suber.
The company, which currently consists of 18 students, began practice on its first project on Sept. 14.
The company is open to people in the outside Ithaca community, although none have joined yet.
“Every now and then, we have people from the community as part of our performances but they’re not students,” Suber said. “This is a way to kind of make an official and formal inclusion of them in the Cornell community.”
Suber said he also hopes to take the company beyond Ithaca.
“If we perform outside of Ithaca, it’s representing Cornell,” Suber said. “I just wanted to have something that people could feel proud to be a part of, and actually have Cornell acknowledge them for what they’re doing, rather than just an extracurricular.”
Although the company is expected to take up a lot of time, the dancers said that it would be worth it.
“I joined because I like to perform and any chance to perform, I’ll take it,” said Jocelyn Hahn ’14, one of the company’s members. “This is a great opportunity for that. So far, it’s been really good.”