By BRYNN RICHTER
For 42 minutes, five dancers danced, acted and reacted as they and their audience examined the concept of the counterfactual. Through modern choreography and interaction with the audience, the dancers of The Counter-Factual presented a compelling performance that drew the audience in from the first note of music.
The Counter-Factual dance concert this past Thursday at the Schwartz Center’s black box theatre, was directed by Zoe Jackson ’16 and co-choreographed by Jackson and Brooke Wilson ’16. It consisted of eight pieces, separated by the music to which they were set, and featured five dancers, Aubrey Akers ’19, Juliana Batista ’16, Hannah Fuller ’19, Grace Mitchell ’17 and Ariana Otto ’19. The small, intimate venue fit the theme of the counterfactual well, as it contradicted, the traditional experience of a dance performance.
Rather than having the dancers raised on a stage in front of the audience, the black box theater places the audience above and on three sides of the stage. This set-up introduces challenges for choreographers when creating a performance, as it makes it impossible to conceal incorrect formations or lines of the dancers. Despite this added difficulty, however, Jackson and Wilson adapted effectively and designed choreography that flourished in the unique space.
The dancers moved with ease from the center of the stage to behind the backdrop curtain, to around and even behind the audience. Remaining on the stage and moving for the entirety of the performance, they highlighted their strength and endurance. Although each piece was set to music of different styles and moods, recurring themes of choreography made for a cohesive performance.
The choreographers further took advantage of the close proximity of the audience, integrating the audience into the performance itself. Dancers pulled audience members onto the stage, posed them and continued to dance around them. Later in the show, the dancers asked the audience questions, like “What is your favorite food?” or “What would you be doing if you weren’t here?” As featured dancer, Hannah Fuller ’15 explained, the answers determined which sequence of choreography the dancers would then executed.
The course-altering impact of answers on the performance’s progression related profoundly to the overall theme of counterfactual and the ways by which, as Zoe Jackson ’16 described in her director’s note, “history is determined by choices made at every stage of the historical process.” She further explains that her intention was to explore counterfactuals through dance. As the production progressed, however, she realized that the definition of a counterfactual is different for each person, and what she sees as a counterfactual could be very different than what her co-choreographer, dancers, and audience see.
Introducing the concept of the counterfactual into dance allowed the audience to look past the choreography and search for deeper meaning, while evaluating their own idea of a counterfactual. This concept made the The Counter-Factual a far more active experience for the audience than your typical dance performance. The dancers did not perform simply entertain, but to convey an idea.
The dancers beautifully performed the intricate choreography and the hours of hard work that went into the production were evident. Each of the five dancers had their own choreography, rarely dancing in unison, making the performance very engaging. Their movements were sharp and exact — and the dancers all performed very well together. The choreographers effectively intertwined choreographic themes, and used different sets of choreography together so that although the dancers were not doing the same movements, the piece still appeared cohesive.
Although the choreography was not the typical “So You Think You Can Dance” contemporary style that is prevalent in today’s dance world, it was refreshing to see interesting and unique choreography with an interesting purpose. While dance pieces with a story can be incredible to watch, I enjoyed watching a whole performance centered on a concept rather than a story. The choreographers sought to create something different from a typical dance performance and succeeded.
Examining the concept of the counterfactual through dance drove the movement and brought a deeper meaning to the choreography. Dance can so powerfully show what cannot always be expressed with words, and the Counter-Factual dance concert not only presented an entertaining and visually striking performance, but also brought profound meaning and perspective to its central theme.
Brynn Richter is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].