In the Tennessee Williams Center’s Proctor Hill Theatre, visiting assistant professor Courtney World premiered her project “DanceWise: Point of Departure.” The performance ran from January 29-31, showcasing the works of student-choreographed pieces, and collaborations between World and guest artist Heather Acomb.
The performance differed from other dance performances in Sewanee in multiple ways, most noticeably in the arena-style stage, designed by Professor Dan Backlund. The stage had to be circular because of the choreography, which is not a normal style for dancing. This added another layer of difficulty for the choreographers and dancers in the pieces, and proved the dancers’ expertise. Backlund’s design for the performance incorporated multiple types of stages other than the arena stage. The first piece, a tap piece performed by World, required a proscenium theatre that Backlund made in a moveable platform at the back end of the stage. This piece was used twice, for World’s tap piece and a live piano piece. Similarly, the third piece, a dance for camera, was projected onto a screen that hung behind the arena stage. The screen acted as a mimic of the set and added another dimension to the set.
Working under the supervision of Professor Jennifer Matthews, Josie Guevara-Torres (C’15) and Ruth Guerra (C’16) designed the pieces, and made costumes that greatly resembled the costuming style and principles of Martha Graham. Each costume represented the type of dance, but also worked with the dancer and aided and enhanced the movement of the piece. Many of the costumes were pale colored and had movement, with the exception of Guevara-Torres’ choreographed piece, in which the colors were vibrant.
The caliber of dance in this performance was higher than most dance performances seen at Sewanee by students and staff. Each dance held more emotion, emitted by the movements and seen through the dancers, and from the audience there was a greater connection to the dance. DanceWise had a cast of eighteen students, three student choreographers, two student designers, and the collaborative efforts of World and Acomb. Each night of the DanceWise was packed with more attendees than there were seats available. The last night of the performance the gallery walls were packed all around the Proctor Hill Theatre, and families and students were sitting on the floors and seated on the stairs of the seating units.
The next performance in the Proctor Hill Theatre will be David Landon’s production of The Tempest that runs February 26 through March 2.