URBANA — The annual November Dance concerts by Dance at Illinois usually feature faculty pieces. This week, the dance department is doing something a little different with November Dance, opening tonight at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.
Graduate students choreographed two of the pieces, and guest artists Sahar Azimi and Darrell Jones each created two. The other piece, "When 5 Came Together," which will be first on the program, is a new collaboration created by Dance at Illinois resident artist Kirstie Simson and master of fine arts candidates Johanna Meyer and Tamin Totzke.
"We wanted to give our students more opportunities to showcase their work," said Simson, the November Dance concert director.
Graduate students who wanted their choreography in November Dance submitted proposals, which were reviewed by faculty.
The three concerts also will feature unique musical selections, among them sound designs for three of the pieces by the UI's M. Anthony Reimer, a doctoral candidate in composition; excerpts from Jean Renoir's 1954 film "French Cancan"' and Bela Bartok's Opus 19, Sz. 73, also known as "The Miraculous Mandolin."
And musician Yu-Chen Wang will provide the sound for "When 5 Came Together," playing the gu-zheng, a Chinese plucked zither.
"When 5 Came Together" will feature Simson, an international leader in contact improv, dancing an improvised solo. The other dancers — three graduate students — will dance set material.
"Solo material created by each performer is compiled considering a variety of approaches to creating space, ranging from imagined interiors to the vastness of open landscapes," reads a news release from the dance department. "The exploration has resulted in a questioning of theatrical convention including sound, light and the limitation of the proscenium stage, in order to support the space the artists have created together."
The other pieces, with descriptions from the UI Department of Dance:
"Who Is Them," a new work by Israeli guest artist Sahar Azimi that challenges audience members to see the humanity in everyone around them. Simson described the piece as post-modern but with classical elements, particularly the sound score, which features the Bartok work.
Azimi collaborated last spring with 10 undergraduates to create "Who Is Them," for 10 dancers.
"The dance explodesinto thespace andjuxtaposes individuality with clan/group dynamics. As bodies twist and contort into unconventional positions, the search for humanity beyond cultural stigma lingers in the movement. Bold in nature andwith a hint of humor (sarcasm), 'Who Is Them' is a dance impossible to ignore," the department says.
"bpm," by Darrell Jones, a professor of dance at Columbia College Chicago, is a new work for the 18 senior bachelor's degree candidates in dance.
"He presents 'bpm' (beats per minute) as an investigation of enlarging one's own energy through the concept of pulse. Through continuous movement scores, an awareness of internal impulse and more acute external awareness of the moving group environment, 'bpm' seeks to expand the pluralism of ideas and forms conveyed by the moving body. Accompanied by dramatic musical buildups and breakdowns, the performers find risks and rewards through group consensus and collision."
"Quadrille" by second-year MFA candidate Meyer brings the energy and flirtatiousness from "French Cancan" to a contemporary setting.
"The dancing hints at actual cancan moves and rhythms, and flirts with the film's timing," said the release. "This piece contains four chairs interspersed with seven dancers and the stimulating visual experience came together through the consultation of Erica Loehner. 'Quadrille' suggests that we should keep looking, even though we might have already missed the party."
Third-year MFA student Totzke's "VIA" examines the human being's ability to adapt to the unpredictable terrain of landscapes and human relationships in life.
"This nonlinear sea of human connection is ripe with kinetic interruption as the dancers physically manipulate an architectural structure to conceal and reveal group cohesion while also forcing dancers into intimate isolation."
If you go
What: The University of Illinois Department of Dance's November Dance concerts, featuring five new pieces by two visiting artists; two graduate students; and faculty artist Kirstie Simson in collaboration with two graduate students
When: 7:30 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday
Where: Colwell Playhouse, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, 500 S. Goodwin Ave., U
Tickets: $17 for adults; $16 for senior citizens; $15 for students; $10 for UI students and youths high school age and younger
Information: http://www.krannertcenter.com; 333-6280 or 800-527-2849 (patrons who are deaf or speech-impaired call 333-9714)
In connection: "November Dance: Dessert & Conversation," 6:30 p.m. Friday; tickets are $6.50 and include dessert and beverage (Also Friday night after the concert, a discussion at Stage 5 in the Krannert lobby with the dance artists)