The other DM

Rachel Wolff

As the curtain of the Josephine Louis Theatre rises, a curious light fixture hangs center stage with rows upon rows of dangling silverware. In “Lake Banjo,” choreographed by Northwestern graduate Jenny Shore (’03), five dancers stand stoically on stage, each holding a knife and fork.

The dancers start rubbing their silverware together ferociously, concentrating intensely on their task. As the piece gains momentum, the dancers break into beautiful, lyrical movements that are jolted as one dancer scrambles for the flying silverware, trying desperately to maintain order.

Danceworks 2005, playing through Sunday at the Louis Theatre, is an eclectic dance concert that showcases everything from jazz to avant-garde modern to traditional African dance. The professionally choreographed concert features works by NU dance faculty and Shore, the guest choreographer. The show is known for its diversity in bringing together the creative visions of seven very different choreographers.

“As artistic director, my goal was to make a variety program that not only presents diversity of point of view at Northwestern but also in the greater dance community,” says Billy Siegenfeld, a professor in NU’s dance department. “My job is to help the choreographers gestate and then birth dances with their own movement styles, emotional atmospheres, choice of music, use of music. My job is to keep supporting the choreographers to articulate their points of view as distinctly as possible.”

The individuality of each piece in Danceworks speaks to Siegenfeld’s goal of diversity. In Habib Iddrisu’s “So Chiriga,” 14 dancers clad in colorful tunics and leggings stage an African ritual dance, sharing the stage with live drummers. Iddrisu, who teaches West African dance at NU, has his dancers hop and spin ceremoniously to the powerful beats.

In Laura Wade’s “Resolve,” three women in ’50s-esque “night-on-the-town” dresses interact beautifully with a male dancer. Elegant lifts and heart-felt movement carry the piece, asking the audience to interpret the various emotional relationships they see on stage.

“Billy (Siegenfeld) makes sure there’s a good flow to the entire show,” says Wade, an instructor in NU’s dance department. “He makes sure there’s a balance between style and music. He creates a variety show without being in two different worlds. It’s almost the same choreographers as last year, and it’s great to see what different things everyone comes up with each year.”

Instead of resurrecting an old piece of repertoire on this year’s dancers, Wade crafted an entirely new work. Starting rehearsals late Fall Quarter, she had the time to conceptualize the piece and work with the dancers, gaining their input and feeding off of their creativity as well as her own.

“Since we start rehearsing in the fall, it’s a fairly large time commitment,” says Wade. “It’s not like a piece of theater where you have the actual script to work with. There’s a lot of back and forth. Some of the best lifts in the piece came started as mistakes in rehearsal.”

Siegenfeld has two pieces in Danceworks this year. They embody his acclaimed “Jump Rhythm Jazz” style and frame the concert with an energetic start and finish. Siegenfeld’s style is a rhythmic technique that finds motivation in energy and not necessarily shape. In “I’ve Got Your Number,” and “Don’t Cloud Up On Me,” Siegenfeld’s dancers exude energy with every movement.

While Siegenfeld’s works embody the traditional jazz style seen in old movie musicals (think Fred Astaire’s rhythm-based moves), the majority of the concert emphasizes a more experimental and more avant-garde style of dance. Pieces start in silence, dancers gaze at themselves in mirrors scattered onstage, women bring offerings of fruit to an iconic deity and a very modern piece is set to a track from Giacomo Puccini’s “La Boh