A couple of years ago, with a semester of Ballet 101 under his belt, Sweet Briar College Chaplain Adam White started pestering dance professor Mark Magruder about performing in one of his upcoming dance concerts.
“I teased him mercilessly at every turn to say I wanted to be something that didn’t actually move,” White said, saying his lessons with the late Petrus Bosman had officially qualified him to play a number of things — trees, stones, bushes, Corinthian columns.
White is quick to point out it was all in jest, but Magruder recently took him up on his offer. He won’t be playing an immobile or inanimate object, however. “He’s always been teasing me that he wanted to be a tree on stage,” Magruder said. “I told him, ‘Listen to me, man. If you’re going to be in my dance you’re not going to be a tree.”
At 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, April 24 and 25, White will join more than 20 dancers on stage at Murchison Lane Auditorium in a piece choreographed by Magruder for the annual Spring Dance Concert.
Magruder said the dance, called “Wave Forms,” is the “largest piece I’ve ever choreographed at Sweet Briar.”
During “Wave Forms,” White also will perform on guitar with three of the five members of FaSt, Sweet Briar’s faculty/staff band. For this production, however, Magruder, who also is in the band, has renamed the group “Slim FaSt” because two of their members, professors Rob Granger and Steve Wassell, won’t be joining them.
Magruder describes his dance as high-energy and sometimes humorous, and said the dancers are transformed into a “sound and music” orchestra. Prompted by a conductor, the dancers make sounds — anything from barking to screaming — accompanied by creative movements.
“If the students can keep it together over how funny they’re being, it’s actually kind of cool,” he said.
Magruder’s wife, Ella, a dance professor at the College, also has choreographed a piece for the spring concert. Called “Chromatique,” the work features seven students, all dance majors, and music by Slim FaSt. Magruder did not withhold praise for his wife, saying the dance was one of his favorites from her repertoire.
“Technically, it’s quite stunning, movement-wise,” he said. “Just a beautiful piece. The movement is very powerful and the students’ technical ability is really standing out. Ella uses all of these big colored pieces of fabric that are moved through space. … Visually, it’s a stunning dance.”
In addition to pieces choreographed by Sweet Briar’s dance faculty, the concert will include eight to 10 student works, including one choreographed by sophomore Sara Buttine. The five-to-six-minute piece will feature six dancers and focuses on what she calls as “the linear patterns of the stage.
The dance is so high energy, she said, that after rehearsals the dancers tell her they feel like “they just ran a marathon.”
Buttine also will dance a solo during the concert, a piece she also performed in March at the American College Dance Festival. She describes it as a “text and movement piece” based on a collection of poems she wrote about her life.
“It’s a technical dance and at the same time it’s an emotive dance,” she said. “It expresses meaning, while incorporating the technique of the dancer. … It’s kind of like a window looking in on my life [with] someone outside watching in.”
Buttine, a dance major, also will perform in Mark and Ella Magruder’s pieces, as well as in those choreographed by Mallory Duff ’10, Aili McGill ’10 and Meagan Oliphant ’11. In Oliphant’s dance, Buttine teams up with Tiffany Miller ’11.
“Her piece works really with the relationship with two people and the reliance on friendship,” Buttine said. “It’s always pulling back, going toward each other, helping each other with things, pushing people out of their way, that sort of thing.”
Admission to the Spring Dance Concert is free. For more information, call Mark Magruder at (434) 381-6150.
— Suzanne Ramsey