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GroundWorks program reflects on transition, language

3/23/2017 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

GroundWorks DanceTheater’s Felise Bagley and Michael Marquez are shown in rehearsal for the company’s upcoming performances in Akron.
Photo courtesy of GroundWorks DanceTheater
DOWNTOWN AKRON — Artistic Director David Shimotakahara said GroundWorks DanceTheater’s upcoming performances will reflect what he senses is the mood in the country after a tumultuous time in our social and political climate.

“We don’t create work with themes in mind, but more about something that’s in the air,” Shimotakahara said of the company’s upcoming performances, March 31 and April 1 at 7:30 p.m. at E.J. Thomas Hall, 198 Hill St. The program will feature three works, two of them premieres, including one choreographed by Shimotakahara, “Against Night.”

“In my piece, I was responding to a need I felt to respond to the sense of we’re in the midst of some seismic shifts and changes,” he said. “And many people I talk to feel that way, too, and it’s not just politics. People feel unsettled, and the more we discussed the program, we realized there was this spread that was emerging.”

Social and political issues have a way of informing most artists’ work, he added.

“A lot of artists work better with some kind of obstacle or challenge or problem to solve,” he said. “But everybody responds differently. Art has this amazing ability to connect in a way that is not always about what we say, and certainly dance is that. A sense of meaning without words is really dance’s power. It communicates on a different level.”

The creative arts also have a way of uniting people during times of division, he said.

“It has the power to remind us of the things that actually bind us,” he said. “When you read the headlines of what is dividing us, our differences, it’s important to be reminded that the things that bind us are stronger. That’s one of art’s functions.”

In addition to Shimotakahara’s new work, which he said uses the changing qualities of light as a metaphor, the performance will include the debut of Gina Gibney’s “Drafting Hindsight” and a reprise of Eric Handman’s “Remora.”

Gibney’s work explores the idea of memory and the embodiment of spoken communication. It will feature original music by Ezekiel Honig, costumes by Felicity Sargent and visuals by Joshue Ott.

The latter’s contribution, created using software that he developed called superDraw, will give the work a unique visual element.

“[Gibney] wanted to try to work with video as a kind of moving set,” Shimotakahara said. “We’ve worked with projected images before, but every video artist has his own style.”

The piece, he added, is built around questions the choreographer posed to herself and the dancers.

“It’s about the dynamics and mechanics of conversation, both with each other and internally, which is fascinating when I think about it, how we talk to ourselves,” he said. “Is that even a language?”

Handman’s “Remora” was first performed by GroundWorks in 2015. It reflects the choreographer’s physical style, Shimotakahara said.

“He really wanted to create something that was based on [the dancers’] interdependence,” Shimotakahara said. “This idea that he talks about is how we are kind of a product of each other’s interactions.”

The performance’s three pieces work together well, Shimotakahara said.

“I feel this, in terms of its ideas, in terms of its range and its physical scope, it’s meaty,” he said. “I didn’t feel I wanted to overcrowd the program. I want each work to be able to stand out in its own way and for people to be able to experience it with a clean mind and be receptive to the differences.”

Tickets are $25 for general admission and $10 for students with valid identification. For tickets or details, go to groundworksdance.org or uakron.edu/ej or call 330-253-2488.

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