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'Site Works - Dance on Tour' to be presented this week
Most dance performances occur indoors on a stage with lighting and often with recorded music, providing the dancers with a controlled environment to express themselves in. In "Site Works: Dance on Tour," dancers from Southeast Missouri State University will perform at five different locations in four days this week. Three of the sites are outdoors, and the dance surface will vary in every case. They will dance on floors, grass and, at Riverfront Park east of the flood wall, cobblestones.
In the three outdoor performances, the elements also could affect the dances. The dancers won't know how sound will carry, and their sense of space will be altered.
"It's completely unpredictable," said Josephine Zmolek, who choreographed once of the dances. That in part achieves the project's original intent, which ultimately proved impossible, to make each of the performances site specific.
They begin Wednesday on the outdoor Terraces stage east of Academic Auditorium, where only the four dances choreographed by students will be performed in a Common Hour presentation. On subsequent days the dancers will perform at the Schock Art Center in Scott City, at the Bootheel Youth Museum in Malden, Mo., and on Saturday morning at the Grand Opening of the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri and in the afternoon at the River Campus.
Beyond the student choreography, "Site Works" is a collaboration between Josephine and Paul Zmolek, married dance teachers at the university. In addition, a piece titled "Approaches" has been choreographed by E.E. Balcos, a Southwest Missouri State University professor who was in residence here in March.
Balcos is an expert in a dance form called contact improvisation. In both his dance and those choreographed by the Zmoleks, the dancers will spend part of their time lying on the ground. Balcos left instructions for the dancers to perform certain movements if the floor is safe and for other movements to be substituted if it is not.
The Zmoleks and student Travis Tucker will play an improvisational percussion score for the piece.
Tucker also will accompany a work by students Adam Rutledge and Tonya Lynn, whose dance employs swordplay from a stage combat class. "They have somewhat abstracted it and made it more dance-like," Paul Zmolek said.
"Site Works" is the opposite of the Zmoleks' last collaboration, 2002's "Zaum: Beyond Significance." In that case they freed the set, lighting and costume designers and composer Dr. Robert Fruehwald to create whatever they wanted and then choreographed dances to fit. "Site Works" is undesigned. All the music is live: Percussion, singing and chanting. In most instances, the sun will provide the only light.
"It creates a whole different set of problems," Paul Zmolek said, "which essentially is what creativity is: Solving problems."
If performing at the Rose Theatre or Academic Auditorium, dancers would wear silk costumes and either ballet shoes or no shoes at all. Instead, costume designer Rhonda Weller-Stilson has put them in durable street clothing, kneepads and tennis shoes.
Because it was created in the spring, "Site Works" reflects a time when the country was preparing to go to war. Josephine's Zmolek's "Sphere of Influence" is a response to current events.
"It's not so much about the war as it is the tensions that have been unleashed in our country," she said.
She wove text by existentialist philosopher Karl Jaspers and Oswald Spengler, author of "The Decline of the West," into the work. It also incorporates drums and boom whackers, hollow plastic tubes tuned to produce notes on the chromatic scale.
In Paul Zmolek's "Alone, Together," the student performers used first-time memories from different ages, such as Meagan Edmonds' memory of singing on stage for the first time at age 6, to create movements and then text. One dancer's text was superimposed on another's movements.
Some of them worked together uncannily, he said.
Zmolek said this is the best repertory dance concert he has been involved in during his three years at the university.
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