Performing, visual arts come together for 'The Planets'

Friday, April 8, 2011
Art students collaborated with dance students to produce sculpture pieces that will be used during the "Spring Into Dance" show at Southeast Missouri State University's River Campus on April 14-17. (Kristin Eberts)

The visual and the performing arts have creatively coexisted for four years at their thriving River Campus home, but Southeast Missouri State University's artistic entities have never truly collaborated on a grand scale.

That all changes next week when music, dance and visual arts converge for "Spring into Dance 2011" at the Bedell Performance Hall.

The annual event by the Department of Theatre and Dance highlights a mix of faculty, student and guest artist choreography, featuring everything from jazz to modern dance to ballet. The production -- slated for 7:30 p.m. Thursday to Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday -- is constantly evolving, and this year is no exception.

For the first time at the River Campus, about 40 Southeast dancers will perform to live music played by the Southeast Wind Ensemble. And sculptures and other artwork, created by faculty and students in the Department of Art, will serve as the backdrop for the dance troupe.

The artistic collaboration takes place in Act II of the production, centering on Gustav Holst's "The Planets."

"For all of us, it was an opportunity to really do what the River Campus was meant to do," said Hilary Peterson, artistic coordinator and instructor of theatre and dance. "We all get in our own little bubbles. We think only in the dance world or only in the music world. And we forget that they work together very harmoniously, and they can have a profound effect on each other."

The ballet incorporates four of the seven movements of "The Planets" -- Mars, Venus, Mercury and Jupiter.

Peterson choreographed Mars; professor Marc Strauss choreographed Mercury; and instructor Philip Edgecombe choreographed Jupiter. The three collaborated on the choreography for Venus.

The Southeast Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Marty Reynolds, along with percussion, will perform in the pit, giving the piece a live musical element.

Chris Wubbena, associate professor of art, along with 10 of his students, created and built three large sculpture pieces that will be on stage and manipulated by the dancers. They also made fabric banners and welded two metal slabs that will appear from the ceiling.

"They've never had to think about how much weight can this support? Will someone be safe climbing up this?" Wubbena said of his students' latest project. "I think it's taught them that if you put the work and planning into it, you really can achieve something that is artistically aesthetic but structurally sound and safe."

As they prepare for the production, the dancers, musicians and sculptors have taken turns watching one another practice and sculpt. And the experience is proving to be eye-opening for everyone.

"Dancers are making many more connections between what they normally listen to and a live version of the music with the real saxophones and clarinets and tubas and trumpets," Strauss said. "It's thrilling for dancers, and I suspect the musicians are fascinated watching their music come to life in bodies."

"And I've heard the sculptors say they are fascinated that dancers are crawling and climbing all over artwork that normally just sits there," he said.

Strauss and others hope the collaboration is the first of many projects like this to come.

Act I of the concert will feature six dances, offering a variety of energies and dance styles. It includes three student choreography pieces, two faculty works and the piece "Sabor a Mi" by guest artist Susan Quinn. The master teacher's choreography has been performed everywhere from the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., to the Amsterdam School of the Arts in Amsterdam.

"There is always something for everybody," Strauss said of the concert.

Its running time is just under an hour and a half, with a 15-minute intermission between the two acts.

Tickets are $16 for adults; $3 for Southeast students and may be purchased at the River Campus Box Office or by calling 651-2265.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: