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Monday, May 16, 2022

'Radical & boundary pushing': Annual Fall Dance Concert promises experimental work

<span class="photocreditinline">COURTESY PHOTO</span>

Students in Dance Professor Laurel Jenkins’ class “The Place of Dance” and artist-in-residence Tori Lawrence will perform original works at the annual Fall Dance Concert. The concert, which will take place at 7:30 p.m. this Friday and Saturday, Nov. 22–23 features six pieces by the class’ five students and Lawrence. According to Asha Williams ’22.5, a choreographer who will be performing her piece in the concert this weekend, the concert serves as a finale for the course. 

Williams, who began dancing when she was five years old, says that she still has much to learn when it comes to dance.“My journey always continues, and I never know what my relationship is going to be with dance,” she said. Her piece reflects this idea of journey, and contains three parts: Naked, In Flux, and Unwritten. “I made [my piece] about a journey because I’m going through a journey right now,” Williams said. “This semester has been a very tumultuous time, emotionally. I’ve been going through moments of understanding that I’m going through a journey for the first time in a long time.”

Unlike Williams’ heavily choreographed piece, John Cambefort ’21 built his primarily improvised work by beginning with a single word. “I started making [my piece] with no theme in mind,” he said. “I started with the word ‘play.’” Cambefort used early rehearsals to experiment with different “scores” – tasks and loose direction used to aid improvisation – and began to build a piece that varied considerably between performances.

“[Choreographing] has been kind of hard,” he said. “When we started, the first showing was extremely improvised, and people loved it. But that’s the thing with improvisation: some days it’s good and some days it’s just not.” To help solidify the piece – a trio featuring Cambefort, Kole Lekhutle ’20 and Martin Troška ’21 – Cambefort added an audio track of a subway train. “I settled with the metro idea because we had these individual sections,” he said, “but people were like, ‘Where’s the thread?’”  Now that he has settled on a score, Cambefort says he has been focusing on preserving the energy improvisation brings to a piece.“I need to think about how I can I keep the fun-ness and the originality of improvisation,” he said.

Marquise Adeleye ’20, another student in the class, is working on lighting design for his piece as well as the pieces choreographed by Cambefort and Williams. In addition, Adeleye has designed the costumes for his piece and edited the music that accompanies his work.

Adeleye, who is not dancing in the concert, says that his choreography reflets themes of relationships and emotions that are at the center of those relationships. “[Relationships] develop us into the person we are at the end of the day: whether they’re familial, whether they’re romantic, whether they’re friendships, they’re all relationships that have some type of emotion individually attached to each person,” he said. “Those relationships are what create us, and that’s what [my piece] is about.”

His approach to dance as it concerns human interaction is something Sam Kann ’20.5 is also interested in. “I decided that I really wanted to make a piece about belonging and what it means to belong and where we belong and how we don’t belong,” she said. “It started out as thinking of how people can be really similar but not belong together – like all these students at Middlebury are the same age and are interested in a lot of the same stuff but are super lonely and isolated, or like people in New York City who are all wearing suits and are probably working at the same type of company but never talk.”


Kann has fused this idea with Jenkins’ class to experiment with the intersection of music, words and dance. This experimentation, Kann says, originated over J-Term when she and collaborators created a 45-minute-long work. The work, titled “Intimacy and Future S*it,” explored the simultaneous creation of music and dance. This is a concept Kann has elaborated on in her new work with the addition of words and stories spoken by her dancers.

“I really like words in dance because I think it really helps dance feel more accessible,” she said. “It’s radical and boundary pushing. I think words make people more comfortable and allow people to think about themes more easily than in abstract dance.”

Though Kann’s piece is the only work in the concert featuring vocal storytelling, student Lucy Grinnan ’19.5 is using their thesis to explore story in dance. “I’m interested in how texts work within pieces and the potential of visual metaphor to build narrative,” they said.

To build such a narrative, Grinnan turned to Ovid’s Metamorphoses. “I was thinking this summer about the vulnerability of changing in front of people – not physically changing but the feeling of being watched while you are evolving as a person,” they said. “I wanted to make a piece about that.” They found themselves focusing on the story of Arachne and Athena to explore this concept of change. “One of my dancers said, ‘I feel like I used to be a really angry person and I’m trying to be a less angry person,’” Grinnan said. “I started thinking about the story of Arachne and Athena and the ways that story represents anger. That became [central] in terms of the ways that people can hide vulnerability and also the ways that communities show, but also help, with vulnerability.”

Along with the five student works, Artist-in-Residence Tori Lawrence has also been building a piece for the Fall Dance Concert. Her piece – the only faculty piece in the show – is the annual Newcomer’s Piece. A pillar of the Fall Dance Concert, the Newcomer’s Piece is open to any dancer who has not yet performed with Middlebury’s dance department. Lawrence, a dancer and filmmaker, used 16mm film to produce a silent, “handmade” motion picture.

“It’s been fun to teach [the newcomers] as if they were collaborators of mine,” Lawrence said. “Everyone has a say in what we’re doing, and if there’s interest in the camera, I’ll take time to be like, ‘Oh, this is what this is, this is how you load the film, this is how I used the light mater.’ It’s been fun to teach people in the field.”

The film will be put to music composed by guest musicians Seth Wenger and Cole Highnam from New Haven and New York City, and will also be accompanied by a foley (which Lawrence explained as “recreating diegetic sounds of the wind, grass, movement sounds, etc.”), as well as by a melody composed by Wenger and performer by Peter Sergay ’22.


Ariadne Will ’22 is a local editor for the Campus.

She has previously served as a staff writer, where she covered topics  ranging from Middlebury’s Town Meeting to the College’s dance  performances.

Will also works for her hometown newspaper, the Daily Sitka Sentinel,  where she covers tourism and the Sitka Planning Commission.

She is studying English and American literature with a minor in gender, sexuality and feminist studies.