Dancers Perform Student-and Faculty-Choregraphed Narratives

Aliens, robots, raindrops, strippers, and wizards were just a few of the
themes presented in the Scripps Dance Performance April 11-12. Over the course of three shows, dancers in the Scripps College Dance Department showcased their work for
a full and lively audience in Garrison Theater of the Scripps Performing Arts

Dance Department faculty members Suchi Branfman and Kirsten Johansen choreographed a few of the dances, but most of the works were choreographed by students.

Bike brigades in Brooklyn, N.Y., that brought supplies to places where emergency vehicles could not enter following Hurricane Sandy inspired Branfman’s piece, “Falling Together.” In the piece, bikers dressed in red and blue hues performed against a shifting blue backdrop, with branches and an overturned table decorating the stage. 

“To me, it was a really beautiful example of the ways in which community is transformed through and by an emergency,” Branfman said. 

Branfman worked with students to create a piece that echoed questions of community in the face of disaster and the profound togetherness that arises. 

“The whole concert is a really wonderful process, to see the journey of the students as choreographers and the dancers as performers,” Branfman said.

For Annie
Whitford PZ ’15, choreographing was a new experience. 

“I didn’t know that much
going into it, but I’ve danced my whole life,” Whitford said. “It was so new
and exciting, and I thought very successful.” 

She said that her experience studying
abroad in Israel at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance and taking a composition class there was inspirational
to her choreography. However,
her piece, “The Thing That Made You,” was inspired mainly by the
film “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” which provided the soundtrack as well as
the visual imagery.

“For me, it was mainly focused on nostalgia and personal
intimacy,” she said. 

Shira Feifer PZ ’15, Christiana Ho SC ’15, Stella Hoft PZ ’16, and Talia Barbara Vilaplana SC ’16 performed in Whitford’s program-opening piece. Each
dancer was extraordinary, both as an individual performer and as a member of the entire work. The dancers were clothed in simple outfits, coupled with lighting and music that lent the performance a visceral quality. 

attributes much of the success of her piece to the talented work and supportiveness of her four dancers, whom she described as “four of the most talented dancers in
Claremont.” Whitford said she greatly enjoyed the experience and is
looking forward to choreographing for her thesis next year.

Three of
the performances this weekend were thesis projects of seniors pursuing a dance

Maximanova Greenberg SC ’14 focused on exotic dance and the meaning of sexuality in different contexts. Her
work took place in multiple parts, displaying lingerie-clad performers dancing provocatively, a workout class focused on exotic dancing, and dancers moving through everyday life. In between segments, a voiceover commented on different
elements of sexuality.

Emily Simmons SC ’14 used a
spoken word piece in her modern dance work, “All that pushes and pulls.” Her
work examined aspects of “individuality and conformity in western society,”
according to her senior thesis project statement.

Emily Kleeman PZ ’14 used the
opportunity to pay tribute to one of her favorite childhood books. For legal
reasons, the title cannot be used, so her work was entitled “The Marauder’s Son.” 

Kleeman is no stranger to
choreographing pieces, having done so since her sophomore year, but her thesis
is extensive in its length and scope. Most thesis projects take approximately 15
minutes; Kleeman’s clocks in at roughly an hour. A short segment was shown as part of the performances last weekend, but the complete performance will take place Saturday, April 19 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. in Pomona College’s Pendleton Studio.

The cast of almost 30 has worked
tirelessly this semester, often rehearsing for hours every weekend. The project
includes dancers of all backgrounds, from ballet to hip-hop to ballroom, and
the dancers—students and a faculty member—range in experience, from just a year to a lifetime of dancing.  

Kleeman used the diverse group to strengthen her work by playing to the strengths of her
dancers. In the case of the ballroom dancers, for example, she choreographed
ballroom dances even though she had never done so before. She also gave
inexperienced dancers complicated dances to perform, which helped portray the college-age dancers as adolescents. 

“A lot of them are playing
11- to 16-year-old students,” she said. “If you give someone who hasn’t necessarily
done a lot of ballet technique before something advanced, they will look good
doing it. But they won’t necessarily look their age.”

Whitford encourages people to attend and get involved with dance department events. 

“It’s exciting,” she said. “I hope people continue to
support it.” 

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