Winona State University’s Dancescape 2010 may leave audience members questioning the point behind the each dance, but creators say there may not be one.
Dancescape is a student, faculty and guest choreographer-led annual dance performance with this year’s show containing 13 dances. Gretchen Cohenour, a professor of theater and dance and director of Dancescape at WSU, said audiences should come with an open mind and engaged senses and not assume there is a meaning underneath.
The rehearsals consist of drumbeats, screaming, jumping off of the ground and lifting each other through the space. The variety of movement and music is because a majority of the dances are modern. WSU is among many colleges that have dance programs with an overall modern dance focus, said Cohenour.
“It is finding your voice through choreographic discipline,” Cohenour said. “Body, mind, spirit and creative process through improvisation.”
Matt Nelson, a dance instructor at WSU, said modern dance is difficult to define.
“Modern dance is an exploration of movement with an aesthetic focus, but aesthetics are hard to pin down,” Nelson said. “It is exploring movement with the intent of feeling something.”
Nelson said he started dancing since his body felt locked.
“I move so I feel,” Nelson said.
Ballet is a strict language, Nelson said. In modern dance, there isn’t one language; anything goes.
Rachele Willy, a social work major at WSU, is dancing in three Dancescape dances this year and said that in modern dance, she can really pour her emotions into it and she can feel the movement and the music. Rachel pushes and pulls her body to express the dance and show the emotion.
“I use dance as a way to pray and talk to God,” Willy said.
Willy said her performances are never about the audience, but how the movement applies to her life.
“I want to tell my story through movement,” Willy said.
Christina Slowinski, a graphic design major at WSU, uses dance as a reference in graphic design classes to create a connection between the parts of her design to create a whole.
“I mostly dance modern pieces because I feel I am able to express myself more,” Slowinski said.
Slowinski grew up with exposure to contact improvisation and so she does not find it awkward when it is applied in the modern dance program in college.
In contact improvisation, two or more dancers make sure at least one point of their bodies touches throughout the performance.
Cohenour said it is important to have openness to learning when exploring this modern dance concept.
“If something feels different there is a pushing away out of confusion,” Cohenour said. “Once engaged and experiencing it isn’t a question. Judgment goes away.”
Watching the different aspects of modern dance in Dancescape may leave the audience questioning.
“There is nothing you are supposed to feel,” Nelson said.
Nelson also said judgment is natural.
“Judging happens,” Nelson said. “We are all going to judge what we see.”
Cohenour said dance is an abstract form and isn’t literal.
“It is weird compared to the everyday,” Nelson said. “It isn’t the everyday.”