The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Nov 15, 2013

GroundWorks DanceTheater brings new dances to Akron-Summit County Library

Posted by rdurbin

GroundWorks DanceTheater, a Knight Arts grantee, is in the dance making business. Regularly (maybe yearly) there is a new work on the horizon, if not from artistic director David Shimotakahara or associate artistic director Amy Miller, then from a contemporary choreographer brought in to create a commissioned work for this ever-evolving and superb dance company.

The upcoming dance concert to be held at Akron-Summit County Public Library is no exception. On the bill will be Kate Weare's "Inamorata," a work completed for GroundWorks in 2013 and premiered in the spring performance at Akron-Summit County Public Library (where the upcoming concert will be), and two brand new pieces – one by Israeli choroegrapher Noa Zuk called "After Chorus," and another by Shimotakahara called "Emergent."

Weare's work is set to music as far ranging as medieval chant to classical music and country tunes. The work explores how we learn to get along, basically how we interact and find ways to survive it all. A set piece in the work is a male duet that shows the strength and toughness inherent to a dance like a tango. It is visually stunning.

GroundWorks DanceTheater, "Inamorata" by Kate Weare. Photo by Mark Horning

Noa Zuk, who spent two weeks with the company to create her piece, approaches her work differently. She is an instructor of the Naharin Gaga movement practice. Practice seems to be the correct word, according to Shimotakahara, for the idea is to "sensitize the body to embody different space," much like, I suspect, one would shift how one moves in a crowded corridor externally or internally after hearing crushingly bad news. You change things.

The practice, as Shimotakahara notes, is not a composotional tool for dance. Rather it gets dancers – and their dances – to not always follow the familiar logical next step that they are used to. And that's what happens in this dance. Zuk, Shimotakahara said in an interview, "knows what she wants – each moment." But in the work she disrupts the "sense of what comes next." There's the unexpected.

GroundWorks Dancetheater, "After Chorus" by Noa Zuk. Photo by Mark Horning GroundWorks DanceTheater, "After Chorus" by Noa Zuk. Photo by Mark Horning

Sounds pretty esoteric, but Shimotakahara said when the piece was performed recently in Cleveland, the audience got it. Even though there is no narrative, there is a dance logic to the work, and the audience can piece together and connect with what the dancers are doing on stage.

Part of the novelty of it may come from the reliance on vocal prompts, Shimotakahara said. The dancers speak as they move, and some utterances are prompts for physical movement. This one should be incredibly interesting for GroundWorks fans.

Also on the bill is Shimotakahara's newest creation, "Emergent." The choreographer stumbled upon the "theory of emergence," an idea he liked exploring. It concerns, he noted, "the study of isolated events that can accumulate or combine and recombine" and from all that, create a sense of order. It "just happens," he noted. Part of the process is the decay of the "system" that is created, and that gets explored in his works.

Think about something like the Internet, he added, where it turned itself into a "complex system" that took on its own logic and shape and is ever changing.

GroundWorks Dancetheater, "Emergence" by David Shimotakahara. Photo by Mark Horning GroundWorks Dancetheater, "Emergent" by David Shimotakahara. Photo by Mark Horning

"Emergent," which runs over 20 minutes, is in four sections set to the music of David Lang, an American composer of "World to Come" (from which Shimotakahara uses two sections), plus jazz pieces from Meredith Monk and some cello music from Hilda Guonadottir – all of which have musical motifs that keep recurring and that, through accumulation, "reassert" themselves and take on significance and shape.

GroundWorks DanceTheater will perform at 8 p.m. on Friday-Saturday, November 22-23 in the theater in Akron-Summit County Public Library, 60 S. High St., Akron; 216-751-0088; Tickets are $20 general admission, $10 for students, and $25 preferred seating.


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