Going behind the footwork of Dance at Illinois

Going behind the footwork of Dance at Illinois

Dance at Illinois' February Dance concert starting tonight at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts offers an interesting variety of performances. Director Sara Hook shared her thoughts on dancers and choreographers with staff writer Paul Wood.

These dance performances celebrate 'our restless need to move, perhaps in defiance, sometimes in pure joy, sometimes in remembrance, and always with a consciousness of time moving onward.' How does dance inspire us to be more conscious of time?

Dance is a temporal art form. Time is one of the most important elements of our craft (along with shape, motion, space and other concepts) that choreographers design. Choreographers evoke passage of time through artful use of repetition and development of movement material and through the relationship between sound and moving. But there is also the sense that dance is responsive to the time in which it is being made in terms of current events and concerns of the society right now.

Grace Courvoisier's 'Mountain Dew Honey Spring' is a work performed by a large and powerful cast of women from Dance at Illinois. How does the choreography show the dancers' vulnerabilities and personalities?

This particular piece challenges the dancers to unleash some dynamic expressions that are otherwise often suppressed in everyday life. I think it will be both fun and challenging, and perhaps even cathartic for the audience to witness this.

Faculty member C. Kemal Nance premieres his funky and rhythmic new work, 'Terminal C,' to explore social resistance and protest, with our airport systems as the setting. I'd never heard of the Umfundalai dance technique. Sounds interesting and probably new to some in the audience. What should the audience expect?

Umfundalai is a contemporary dance technique that combines common aesthetic elements found in dances from many African countries. It is a very demanding, full-bodied dance practice that requires utter commitment and a sense of articulate exuberance. In "Terminal C," he uses Umfundalai and other African American vernacular vocabularies to explore social resistance and protest.

'(My) Tom' by faculty choreographer Linda Lehovec memorializes the iconic American musician Tom Petty, who played at State Farm Center shortly before he died. This couldn't be timelier! Was the work in progress before Petty died?

Linda Lehovec was inspired to use the music of Tom Petty for her work after seeing him live in his 40th anniversary tour last year. She has been a long-term fan. She listened to nothing but Tom Petty's music all summer, and ultimately decided on the song "Melinda." Once Tom passed away (a few weeks into the process) she decided to add the second section, a much slower, softer lullaby as a kind of "goodbye" and "thank you" to Tom Petty.

'In The Fullness Thereof' shows the reaction of a community during a crisis, including shootings in Las Vegas. Is this work hopeful for our future?

Yes, this piece is a response to the need to see the best of man during the worst of times. I believe the intent is to celebrate humanity's need to come together as a community to solve conflict. The title represents the intent of the piece and is based on a biblical text quoted in a larger context by Sir Winston Churchill:

"Hear this, young men and women everywhere, and proclaim it far and wide. The earth is yours and the fullness thereof. Be kind, but be fierce. You are needed now more than ever before. Take up the mantle of change. For this is your time."

Graduate student Leah Wilks explores the desire to get it right, to live forever, to not be forgotten, all while emphasizing and questioning the things we leave behind in her collaborative work, "vestigial."

Who are her collaborators?

Wilks collaborated with her dancers on the making of this work as many contemporary choreographers do. She uses large group movement, such as running backwards, diving athletically to the floor and emphatic gesturing and other theatrical elements like singing/speaking to conjure a world that evokes a community's concern for legacy and the desire to leave behind a more utopian world.

If you go

What: Dance at Illinois' February Dance

Where: Colwell Playhouse, Krannert Center, 500 S. Goodwin Ave., U

When: 7:30 tonight, Friday and Saturday

Tickets: $10 to $21

Info: krannertcenter.com/node/7160