Bamboo harvested from the campus’ deep woods, vocals by women singing medieval texts — oh, and an Astroturf ramp and puffy plastic bags. Such a list can only describe Sweet Briar College’s Spring Dance Concert, which is set for 8 p.m. Friday, April 8 and Saturday, April 9 in Murchison Lane Auditorium.
Student choreographers Jessica Murphy ’13, Cortney Lewandowski ’12, Ashley Adams ’11, Ellen Reid ’12 and Sarah Fletcher ’13, along with dance professors Mark and Ella Magruder, will set pieces from solos up to a dozen or so dancers. Most will be modern dance, but viewers also can expect ballet and jazz influences, said Mark Magruder, who directs Sweet Briar’s dance program.
Reid describes her “Study of a Clearing” as an “oblique audio-visual sensory connection” created by five dancers, who will interact with the Astroturf ramp and the inflated bags. The clear pillow-shaped pouches are milk containers salvaged from the College’s former dairy. Joe Monk, Reid’s studio art teacher who’s always on the lookout for sundries to incorporate in his own work, gave her the props.
Reid also is using an original sound score by Lauren Burke ’09. That appeals to Magruder, who, as he often does, is composing and performing his own music in collaboration with a colleague.
“[It’s] new choreography as well as new music, which we like a lot since you’re then making this completely new work,” Magruder said.
He anticipates the concert will feature an eclectic mix of music, including Ella Magruder’s use of recordings by the Dmitri Pokrovsky Ensemble of Russia and the United Kingdom’s Mediaeval Baebes. The Baebes sing in forgotten languages set to music on medieval and classical instruments.
“My dance is about spring and the ancient cycle of growth,” Ella said. “The dissonances, and unusual rhythms and meters in the music seemed to fit both the movement of the dance and the theme of subtle greening in the forest as the season slowly awakens the earth and the plants and creatures within it.”
Murphy’s duet pits Mankind against Time in the forms of Grace Young ’13 and Meagan Oliphant ’11 behind a percussive score that drives a fast, high-energy dance.
“It’s about the constant struggle between mankind and time. For instance, when you’re younger you want time to speed up so you can be older, and then when you’re old you want time to slow down so you can enjoy life to its fullest,” said Murphy, who lives in Lynchburg.
Lewandowski, a resident of Amherst, says her piece has an “Arabian/Spanish” vibe to it. “You get the feeling that you as the viewer are watching from your windows in Arabia at the beautiful women doing a tribute dance to someone special,” she said.
Magruder returned to the land to find props for his choreography. It could get interesting with a dozen or so dancers on stage with those bamboo poles up to 15 feet in length. It’s not the first time he has used the bamboo that grows abundantly on campus in his work, but he said it’s been a while.
The concert is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Magruder at [email protected] or call (434) 381-6150.