Thu 3/26 – Sat 3/28 @ 8pm
Philip Glass’ String Quartet No. 3 (Mishima) rolls out of the speakers, filling Mather Dance Center like a shimmering stream. The rehearsal of Time River proceeds smoothly as the choreographer, Chun-Jou Tsai, watches via skype from Boston as the 8 dancers spiral around the floor of Cleveland’s 100-year-old dance space. The actual skype connection worked fine but there had been some adjustments, all laughably non-technical.
Midway through the rehearsal the dancers paused to rearrange camera and monitor. “It’s video etiquette,” explained Artistic Director Gary Galbraith. “When the camera and the monitor are facing upstage center, the dancers can look at Chun-Jou on the monitor and she sees them looking at her.”
Tsai originally choreographed Time River for her thesis concert in 2013 and Case is taking the highly unusual step of remounting it for the upcoming spring concert. Karen Potter, Department Chair, says she can’t think of another such case in the last 15 years. Even watching in rehearsal, we’re inclined to agree that it’s an unusually good piece of student choreography.
Choreographing Time River, Tsai was inspired by the passage of time and how time makes change within a group of people. We were impressed that she manages to suggest her theme without dramatizing it and that she maintains interest throughout a 15 minute dance despite dance vocabulary with a low level of difficulty.
As Potter says of Time River, “You see how the seed idea develops throughout the dance, how it emerges in each of the 3 sections of the dance. For instance, she groups people in linear patterns so that they suggest metaphors for the passage of time. A line of people comes to seem like the pendulum of a clock or a hand on a clock.”
Originally from Taiwan, Tsai tells us she currently holds an O-1 visa which allows her to work for pay in the US but which requires periodic renewal. Potter explains, “If she could get her extended visa to stay beyond 3 years she could, for instance, move to New York and get into a professional dance company if she’s interested or she could continue to exercise her creative voice, which she’s demonstrated to be very strong, very clear. In Boston she’s producing evening length work, which is pretty credible for someone 2 years out of graduate school.”
Why has this Cleveland-trained artist of extraordinary ability moved to Boston? Tsai admits that she was “very focused on study and thesis research” while in Cleveland but her impression is that there is more opportunity, more classes, workshops, and performances in more types of dance happening in Boston. In Boston she says she looks up to Boston Ballet and Luminarium Dance; that Boston has 2 improv jams and Cleveland, so far as she knows, none. Also, she expresses surprise and gratitude for the positive response her dancing and choreography have received in Boston. Even harder to argue with, she says “I luckily have Aunties who live in Massachusetts.”
See more of Tsai’s dancing and choreography here.
We’re also looking forward to seeing 2 more dancer / choreographers at the same concert, Master of Fine Arts candidates Hannah Barna and Amanda Clark. Both stood out dancing in the faculty concert last fall. They both assure us that they plan to remain in Cleveland after graduation.
Clark says, “I’m currently applying for jobs in academia but I’m also speaking with the artistic directors of some local dance companies, hoping to do some performing and also teach during the day.”
Barna says, “I have very similar aspirations. I also hope to work in academia so I’m going to be applying for professorships, teaching, gaining experience, and hopefully dancing.
Clark has choreographed a solo and a trio, Barna a solo and a duet. “For both our solos we did the lighting design,” explained Clark. “Normally our technical director will do the design work but we made it a part of our process. We built our own light cues and made an environment with light.”
“My solo,” says Barna, “is about a woman who creates light through movement. When she moves in a certain way the lights come on. But when her environment starts constricting and turning off the lights, how does she respond?”
Case Department of Dance spring concert, Illuminated, runs March 26, 27, 28 at 8 p.m. and March 29 at 2:30 p.m. All performances take place at Mather Dance Center, 11201 Bellflower Road, on the Case Western Reserve University campus. Tickets are $7 for students with ID, $10 for adults 60+ and CWRU personnel, and $15 for general admission. Reservations are recommended, and may be made by calling (216) 368-5246, or online at http://dance.case.edu/reservations.
From Cool Cleveland contributors Elsa Johnson and Victor Lucas. Elsa and Vic are both longtime Clevelanders. Elsa is a landscape designer. She studied ballet as an avocation for 2 decades. Vic has been a dancer and dance teacher for most of his working life, performing in a number of dance companies in NYC and Cleveland. They write about dance as a way to learn more and keep in touch with the dance community. E-mail them at vicnelsaATearthlink.net.