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Last modified: Wednesday, January 4, 2012

'Contemporary Voices' concert to showcase 'here and now' of modern dance

WHAT: "Contemporary Voices," featuring works by guest artists Laurie Eisenhower, Larry Keigwin, Nicole Wolcott and Ben Munisteri, with new dances by Indiana University faculty members. The Annual Faculty and Guest Artist Concert is presented by the IU Dance Theatre and produced by the IU Departments of Kinesiology and Theatre and Drama.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 13 and 14. "Contemporary Voices Family Matinee," 1:30 p.m. Jan. 14.
WHERE: Ruth N. Halls Theater, 275 N. Jordan Ave., Bloomington
TICKETS: Advance: $20 for adults, $10 for children, seniors and IU students with ID. Tickets at the door: $25 for adults, $15 for children, seniors and IU students with ID. The family matinee features a shorter program. Advance tickets: $5 for adults and IU students, $2 for children and seniors. Tickets at the door: $10 for adults and $5 for children and seniors. Call IU Box Office at 812-855-1103.
PRE-CONCERT TALK: "Dance NOW: Creative and Scholarly Perspectives," 6:30 p.m. both evenings, in the Grand Hall of the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center.

Jan. 4, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The emphasis of "Contemporary Voices," the upcoming annual faculty/guest artist concert presented by the Indiana University Dance Theatre, is in no uncertain terms on "contemporary."

Straight Duet

Photo by Roberta Wong

IU dancers Lalah Hazelwood and Joe Musial in "Straight Duet," choreographed by Larry Keigwin and Nicole Wolcott, guest artists of the IU Contemporary Dance Program.

Print-Quality Photo

A couple in their tighty whities dancing with nothing but a mattress. Six college students in their PJs performing on and around a couch. An inflatable sky dancer (yes, like the ones flapping at car dealerships). Original works by IU faculty members, one of whom uses intricate, high-tech embellishments, and another who hopes to see audience members calling the shots in her improvisational piece. Turning from its traditional nod to pioneers and masters of contemporary dance, the concert features only works created in the past decade.

"The historical works are absolutely important so our genre doesn't disappear. It's a really young artistic field, and we will continue to perform those works," said Elizabeth Shea, director of the Contemporary Dance Program at the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. "It's also critical for our students and audiences to see what's happening now -- right now. The trends. We wanted to bring a 'here and now' approach to this concert, and all the works reflect this."

"Straight Duet" is part of a suite of dances choreographed by Larry Keigwin and Nicole Wolcott, of the New York-based Keigwin and Company dance company. Keigwin successfully bridges post-modern art and popular entertainment dance forms, said Selene Carter, lecturer and dance historian in the School of HPER.

"'Straight Duet' is funny, poignant, sexy, sad (and not in the family matinee)," Carter said. "It has a lot of dimensions."

Detroit-based Laurie Eisenhower, an example of the growing regional influence in modern dance, set her dance "Night Music" on the IU dancers, who make good use of a couch in their performance. Ben Munisteri, no stranger to IU, created "Muse of Fire." Influenced by hip-hop clubs in New York, he brings a techno edge to his works.

Lucy's Bones

IU Dancer Rachel Newbrough in "Lucy's Bones"

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Shea will premiere "Between the Sun and the Moon," a solo piece involving the combination of video and motion-capture technology beautifully abstracted and brought to the screen by visual artist Xiaoyuan Zhu, an IU fine arts graduate student.

The work is Shea's capstone to her fellowship with the IU Institute for Digital Arts and Humanities and is also funded by an IU Collaborative Research and Creative Activity Award from the Office of the Vice Provost for Research. The performance requires three projectors to display images on the Cyclorama, which is the traditional backdrop for theater and dance lighting, and also on a front scrim, a somewhat invisible screen that will feature the motion-capture material. Shea said the scrim will be between the dancer and the audience, with the dancer behind the screen and the projections, giving her performance an enhanced 3-D quality.

"I wanted to use technology to expand the performance and experience, not to overload the audience's senses," she said. She also will premiere "Lucy's Bones," a meditation on community that was inspired by the 3.2 million-year-old skeletal remains and involves "a bit of creative storytelling that binds the past and the present."

The concert will be at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 13 and 14 in the Ruth N. Halls Theatre, 275 N. Jordan Ave., Bloomington. A family matinee, which features a shortened performance, will take place at 1:30 p.m. Jan. 14. Pre-concert talks will be held at 6:30 p.m. both evenings in the Grand Hall of the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center.

The family matinee will feature the guest artists' work, with the exception of "Straight Duet." Shea also will show her technology piece, which includes video footage of local children.

The annual concert also includes new works by Iris Rosa, director of the African American Dance Company, and George Pinney, professor and head of musical theatre in the Department of Theatre and Drama. Pinney's "Stop" focuses on bullying. Ben Wegman, a guest artist-in-residence at the School of HPER, will present a work involving the inflatable sky dancer.

Wegman, who performed with the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange and in "Ferocious Beauty: Genome," the company's multimedia modern dance performance seen at IU Auditorium in 2009, continues to perform professionally as he works with IU's dance majors.

"It's great to have him," Shea said. "I can already see the effect of his knowledge and his 'here and now' contemporary experience on the students. He takes a multidisciplinary approach to his work. We placed his work before intermission because it will encourage conversations."

Dancers in Carter's work, "Take the Call," will improvise throughout, creating something new at each performance. Communicating through the use of verbal calls, the ensemble might even be directed by audience members, who will be encouraged to take up some of the calls.

"I really want to break the barrier between audience and dancers with this piece, allowing the audience perceptions to merge with the dancers' perceptions," she said.

The atmosphere at the annual concerts is rarely staid, with Carter describing it as "celebratory, kinesthetic and vibrant."

About Contemporary Dance at Indiana University

The IU Contemporary Dance Program offers a collection of dance experiences that are accessible to students who seek serious study in the art of dance. The program's core offerings consist of curricula that, through the highest quality of training and instruction, strengthen and refine contemporary dance technique as well as provide scholarly inquiry into the history, science and aesthetics of dance. The faculty of the IU Contemporary Dance Program strives to not only teach, but mentor and provide a strong theoretical base from which each dancer can grow and work as an individual artist. Students are encouraged to seek their own venue for expression, such as performance, choreography, teaching, production or scholarship, and prepare for a successful career in the professional and academic field of dance.

Carter can be reached at 812-856-2819 or Shea can be reached at 812-855-7020 or