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Dance event explores the structure of improv

Published June 13, 2012 1:53 pm

Dance • Five choreographers' works represent their artistic process at Rose Wagner shows.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Feeling spontaneous? Why not try some improv dance?

This weekend's "Daughters of Mudson" performance presents the artistic process of five young women: Leah Nelson, Kitty Sailer, Rachael Shaw, Emily Haygeman and Ashley Anderson.

A lot of people are hesitant about attending a stuffy, formal dance concert, said Anderson, who is producing the event as well as choreographing one work for the program. Anderson's event "Daughters of Mudson," is out to break that preconception. That's why the dancers will perform in a relaxed, come-as-you-are setting at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts' Studio Theater. No fancy theatrics, just white floors and work lights. One piece won't even have music.

Ishmael Houston-Jones, who is a celebrated New York improviser, curated the performance. What does that mean? He watched videos of twelve works-in-progress from the Masonic Temple "Mudson" series by Movement Forum. From these, he chose five pieces to be expanded for "Daughters of Mudson."

Each work is different. Two are solos by the choreographers, while the others use students and dancers from Movement Forum performing the choreographers' work.

Anderson describes her "Don't Be Cruel" piece as highly structured improvisation. Its humor arises as seven dancers, conforming to movement structure, explore the nuances of the song as recorded by three different artists. "It's like giving a dance to Elvis or The Judds," or Billy Swan, Anderson said.

Forget stuffy.

Shaw dances a solo in "Transitions." The choreographer received a master's of fine arts from the University of Utah, and for her thesis, she used the concept for this dance. She tried experiments, Anderson said, to explore reaction to dance. "She was interested in people's expectations, about getting them into the theater and what it's like for them to watch a performance," Anderson said.

Shaw dances in silence, which is somewhat uncommon. You can hear her breathing, and her feet landing on the floor. "Dance to no music is a trend that's coming back around," Anderson said.

Haygeman's piece uses props, which is also unusual. Haygeman earned a bachelor of fine arts from the U. and is entering the doctorate program in psychology. She uses psychology as a framework for her choreography about family in "Memory." Not to reveal the plot, but one woman dances in a large wooden frame that becomes a focal point in the piece.

Sailer's work uses 10 dancers to address the theme of how space can be intertwined. "It involves some shuffling of spaces," Sailer said. "It's about the audience space and the performance space," Sailer said. "We're also playing with the dead zone between the stage and the audience."

Nelson dances the other solo. "Wow, Utah" is a structured improvisation that tells the story of her friends' reaction to the news that Nelson was moving from New York to Salt Lake City.

Nelson describes her process as improvising solos to "allow myself to get the feeling of what I'm talking about and how that affects the way I move."

And she literally means talking. Instead of music, Nelson moves as she speaks.

"The speaking part is pretty much set. The story about the differences between New York and Salt Lake City is set," she said. "The movement is improv."

Talk about spontaneous.

kdirmyer@sltrib.com

Dance this way

LoveDANCEmore presents the works of five female choreographers in "Daughters of Mudson" dance concert.

When • Saturday, June 16, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, June 17, at 3 p.m.

Where • Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center's Studio Theater, 138 W. 100 South, Salt Lake City

Tickets • $10 general, $5 students