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Locally Grown Dance performances showcase improvisation, discipline

By: Daniel Aloi,  Cornell Chronicle
Mon, 02/26/2018

The Department of Performing and Media Arts (PMA) will present the 2018 Locally Grown Dance concert March 1-3 at the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts on the Kiplinger Theatre mainstage. Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. nightly.

Directed by dance faculty Byron Suber and Jumay Chu, the event features student dancers and musicians, and original choreography by the co-directors and PMA visiting lecturer Nic Ceynowa. The performances include dance improvisation and live music, as well as recorded musical accompaniment.

Suber’s “Slivering and Slathering” is a political work in three parts, beginning comically with “the ridiculous excess of the ’80s” that helped produce, in part, our political climate today, he said. As it progresses, the work addresses male dominance and female agency, and culminates in “a barrage of female physicality set to marching band drum line music.”

Ten student dancers worked on the piece while Suber was on medical leave. “My absence prevented me from engaging as I typically do,” he said. “The dancers have done an amazing job, and they have worked tirelessly to bring something forward that truly belongs to them.”

Ceynowa’s piece, “smashTheStack,” features five dancers and is set to music by Lorn (electronic musician Marcos Ortega).

“I'm very fortunate to have a group of dancers that have both the discipline and technical range of professionals,” Ceynowa said. “I’m primarily interested in presenting dancers as they really are; supreme athletes who are still human.”

Ceynowa has degrees in dance and computer science, and is a system administrator for the Legal Information Institute in Cornell Law School. Before coming to Cornell in 2014, he danced with several companies in New York City including Paul Taylor’s Taylor 2.

“Nic’s style is quite different than the rest of us and really valuable for the students,” Suber said.

Chu is directing the dance and music collaboration “The Tiger’s Mind.” The work uses improvisation techniques, with choreography and music created over the 20-week rehearsal period.

“The process of collaboration was an intense and continual exchange of ideas and inventions, a partnership that aspires to understand and negotiate the riches and difficulties of independence and interdependence, of giving and taking, of attention and respect,” Chu said.

“The Tiger’s Mind” was conceived by Chu with Annie Lewandowski, senior lecturer in the Department of Music, PMA sound designer Warren Cross and lighting designer Ed Intemann. The musicians include Cross, Lewandowski and members of her Music Improvisation Ensemble.

“The work is about dance and music together live on the stage: seven musicians stationed at various points in the space, seven dancers restlessly moving among the musicians, each responding to the other,” Chu said. “But larger than the spectacle itself is the hope of a world where different voices and bodies, sometimes cacophonous, sometimes in harmony, are able to be together, to share similar ambitions of attention and interest, to be both imaginatively fierce and mindful.”

Student dancers and musicians in the production “come from all over campus,” including undergraduate biology and philosophy majors, School of Hotel Administration students and graduate students in plant biology and German studies, Chu said. “Among them are a few dance minors; all of them are extraordinary, dedicated performers.”

Tickets are $15 general, $8 for students, senior citizens and the Cornell community, and are available online or at the Schwartz Center box office, open Monday through Saturday, 1-8 p.m. at 430 College Ave., Ithaca. A buy-one, get-one ticket promotion is offered at the box office window only.

The event is supported in part by the Cornell Council for the Arts.

This article originally appeared in the Cornell Chronicle. 

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