Choreographers connect works to family, community in Danceworks 2015


Source: Joel Solari

Dancers rehearse for “B-Tracks,” choreographed by Jeff Hancock and Darrell Jones, a piece in “Danceworks 2015: Ties that Bind.” The work features a vogue style and fans as props.

Rachel Davison, Assistant A&E Editor

Exploring familial and community connections through dance takes center stage at “Danceworks 2015: Ties that Bind.”

Dance lecturer Jeff Hancock is the artistic director of the show, which is the dance program’s annual Winter Quarter production featuring choreography from faculty, alumni and outside choreographers. The show is entering its final weekend at the Josephine Louis Theater with shows on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

This year’s theme, “Ties that Bind,” looks at family, community and connecting with other people. Hancock connected to this theme through his life as a gay man and his exposure to the gay community, he said.

“You have what sometimes feels more like your family by choice,” Hancock said. “There’s a slightly more expanded notion of family that I thought of.”

Hancock was inspired by exotic birds of paradise and his experience with the Chicago drag community to create his piece for Danceworks 2015. Called “B-Tracks,” he co-choreographed his piece with voguing veteran Darrell Jones. It features the vogue style, as well as movement with fans and animal-inspired movement, all to a varied soundtrack of music and dancer-produced sound.

“Ostentatious displays are present in all these different ways,” Hancock said. “It’s an interesting kind of hybrid of all of those things living in the space.”

Sophomore dance major Vatsala Kumar is performing in Danceworks for the second time and is one of the nine dancers in Hancock’s piece.

“We have a really great sense of community, it’s all about affirming one another, and openness and vulnerability,” Kumar said about the dancers in “B-Tracks” and the piece itself.

The show, lasting an hour and 40 minutes, includes other new works from graduate student Amy Swanson, faculty choreographers and lecturers Amanda Lower and Joel Valentin-Martinez and alumni Sophia Rafiqi (Communication ’13) and Kevin Durnbaugh (Communication ’06).

The show opens with Rafiqi’s piece that was choreographed and performed while she was a senior.

“(Rafiqi) made this work of three women that I personally read as a family study,” Hancock said. “I was thrilled to be able to call and ask her to bring that piece to Danceworks.”

Despite the common theme, there is a diversity in the styles of choreography. There are varying styles of modern dance in addition to jump rhythm and jazz techniques.

Dance program director Joel Valentin-Martinez choreographed his 20 minute work, “On the Radio,” to music from the 1970s and 1980s to tell a story of coming of age and coming out, and express his experience as a queer artist.

“The piece is looking back at my personal experience listening to this music growing up,” Valentin-Martinez said. “What tied it together was I used music connected to gay themes and gay culture.”

Valentin-Martinez says he tries to do work other choreographers have not done, and felt the dancers were comfortable and open to work with the queer narrative in the piece.

“(Dance) usually stays in a very hetero-normative presentation,” he said. “I felt I was interested in focusing on themes that are sometimes neglected.”

The works in the program look at themes of family and community in different ways, though all with a shared theatricality and tie to the title, “Ties that Bind.”

“There’s a common use of theatrical use and props that makes the show hang together in an interesting way even though the vocabulary is not shared,” Hancock said. “Within this very short time, you’re exposed to completely whole responses connected to this one theme.”

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