March 5, 2009

Dance Preview: Glory and Rue at the Schwartz

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The social interaction between total strangers will differ slightly from that of lovers or even close friends, but how will it differ? In what ways do people look at each other or react to movement in different situations? Does the architecture of a specific area affect how people interact within its streets? The upcoming dance concert at the Schwartz Center will explore these questions as 14 student performers team up with two alumni dancers and four community members to express the movement of people in urban spaces. The performers will expose their sensitivity to physical distance and the presence or absence of touch in everyday encounters during this episodic narrative centered around the similarities and differences of interactions among people on the street.
“Glory and Rue: Street Dances,” directed by Jumay Chu, specifically focuses on urban movement within the spacious street markets of Paris, the crowded squares of Venice and the bustling sidewalks of Collegetown. This connection to the Cornell University environment will allow students and community members to relate to the theme of the piece. Chu explains that the central theme of the concert is timely and coincides with the 20th anniversary of the Schwartz Center. Although there are three acts within the concert (progressing from quiet, to busy yet organized and finally to chaos), choreographer Byron Suber explained that a particular sequence is not recognizable to the audience and the show will appear more like a collection of dances as opposed to a story with a beginning middle and end.
A work in progress for over a year, “Glory and Rue: Street Dances” was inspired during the Cornell Summer Dance program in Rome and Paris. Founded by Suber, the program gives students the opportunity to spend a month in one or both of the cities dancing and studying the culture of that area. Suber explained that the dance community at Cornell is unique: dancing at an Ivy League University may not necessarily be the first priority for students, and this creates an exclusive dancing environment at Cornell where students can use the art of dancing to learn something more about their specific discipline. Because dancers are more aware of their own bodies and their own movement than that of others around them, experiences with people of European cultures sparked considerable interest in how relationships evolve from arbitrary interaction, eventually leading Suber and co-choreographer Jacob Slominski to this postmodern piece. Slominski ’07, one of two alumni dancers performing in the concert (joining Lena Polzonetti ’01), partnered with Suber to create common movement for twenty dancers that would accompany the all-original music specially composed by Allen Fogelsanger for “Glory and Rue.” Slominski was especially passionate about a particular improvisation portion of the piece that the audience can be sure to look forward to. Suber explained that pre-music choreography allows the show to come together in interesting ways. The intense “pop-like” sound consists of recognizable instruments including the guitar, piano and bongos intermingled with tuneful and harmonic everyday sounds such as car horns and clattering dishes.
In addition to dancing, film will add another interesting dimension to the performance as an array of footage from different places with different scenery will play in the background throughout the show. Taken in various places such as Paris, Hong Kong and Collegetown, the film was manipulated by video artist Robert Oshchorn in order to compliment the dancing and bring to light the message behind the choreography. The majority of the footage consists of Cornell student dancers and alumni in Paris, while the remainder of the film includes clips of alumni dancers performing in Hong Kong as well as film taken by Oshchorn from the Farmer’s Market in Ithaca and other places in Collegetown.
“Glory and Rue: Street Dances” will mark the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts. In honor of the anniversary performance, the Center is beginning an annual recognition of the immense amount of dance that takes place at Cornell University outside of their programs by giving two popular dance groups the chance to provide a combined performance prior to the show. This year’s selections included the break dancing squad, Absolute Zero, and Cornell’s oldest student-run dance program, Impact. “Dance is a tremendous part of the Cornell campus and we want to recognize all the work being done outside our program,” said Chu.

The dancing begins at 7:30 pm on Mar. 5-7 and 2:00 pm on Mar. 8. Tickets are $8 for students and seniors and $10 for the general public.