Of Missing Parts, iPods and the Sound of Distance

by Madeline Smith

Last weekend, the Office for the Arts Dance Program presented its Spring Performances in Farkas Hall, the culmination of a five-week collaboration between OFA Dance Director Jill Johnson, Dance Program Artist-in-Residence Christopher Roman and more than 20 students. The showcase comprises three eclectic dance pieces. The fragmented structure of The Sum of Missing Parts, co-choreographed by its 12 dancers and Roman, allows for individuals and pairs to be showcased while the non-dancing performers serve notably as the "set" for the piece—standing in a downstage line looking upstage, a diagonal line stretched from one corner of the stage to another, or scattered throughout. This staging creates an obstacle course for the dancers, forcing them to work with and around these stationary figures. The minimal lighting design, non-uniform costumes and sparse music of Laurie Anderson and John Cage take

the attention away from the general aesthetic and focus it upon the dancers’ individual movements. Third Rail, a collaboration between Johnson and Roman, features three dancers with iPods strapped to their arms, dancing to the music they hear individually through headphones. The dancers take turns holding up their headphones up to a microphone, allowing the audience to hear the soundtrack of their own personal dance for a few seconds. While the music playing over the sound system is an irregular, grating beeping noise, it is easy to make sense of the dancers’ movements once given a glimpse of the context that they themselves are dancing in.

The six dancers of the final piece, Johnson's The Sound of Distance in Itself , don matching black windbreakers and thick goggles to perform the work, which involves whipping tape measure-like cords against the stage, taping them down into a skewed grid and running forwards and backwards across the creation. A darker lighting design and moving spotlight gives the sense of being underground or in a tunnel. The focus and intensity of the performers speak to the collaborative nature of the three pieces, and grounded a performance full of unconventional material.

The Dance Program's Spring Performances continue at 8 pm on Friday, March 30 and Saturday March 31 at Farkas Hall. Click here for more information.

[Caption: Christopher Roman's "The Sum of Missing Parts" PHOTO: Liza Voll]

[Caption: Johnson and Roman's "Third Rail" PHOTO: Liza Voll]

[Caption: Johnson's "The Sound of Distance in Itself" PHOTO: Liza Voll]