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Seeing Art through Dance and Music

Seeing Art through Dance and Music

: A dancer from the class with cellist Kyle Salley (MU '16). Photo by Mark Bocek.

Seeing Art through Dance and Music

: Sam Opsal (DA '14) and Mariah Martens (DA '14) dance a work by Opsal; they are accompanied by Kyle Salley (obscured) and singers Qoi Douglas (MU '14, far right) and Anthony Canapé (MU '14, back to camera) . Photo by Mark Bocek.

Seeing Art through Dance and Music

: A piece by Maya Horowitz (DA '14), danced by Mariah Davis (DA '15) and (behind her) Aubrey Hallett (DA '14). Photo by Mark Bocek.

Seeing Art through Dance and Music

: Rebecca Greenfield (DA '14) choreographer and Scotty Flores (DA '16) dancer; Kyle Salley on cello. Photo by Mark Bocek.

Seeing Art through Dance and Music

: Sage Miller (DA '14) choreograher and dancer, (left) and dancer Maya Horowitz (DA '14). Photo by Mark Bocek.

Seeing Art through Dance and Music

: Micaela Taylor (DA '14) choreographer and dancer, with and Julia Sloane (DA '15); Kyle Salley on cello. Photo by Mark Bocek.

Seeing Art through Dance and Music

: Christine Dickson (DA '15) choreographer and dancer and dancer Cati Thelen (DA '15); accompanied on French horn by assistant professor Tom Varner (back to camera). Photo by Mark Bocek.

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An enthusiastic audience packed the Cornish Main Gallery to experience an innovative collaboration between dance and music and the visual arts.

A crowd surged into the Main Gallery at Cornish, which was showing works by Art faculty members Bob Campbell and Preston Wadley. The people were there not only to see these works, but also to experience choreographed responses to them, specifically short dances set to improvised musical scores. Standing on tip-toes, ducking and bobbing their heads to see around one another, constantly moving in their own kind of free-form choreography, the viewers absorbed the movement of the dancers who were performing just inches away. The dancers and musicians were members of Deborah Wolf’s Dance Compositional Practices 4 and Tom Varner’s Music Improvisation 2 classes. The nearness of the performers and the sheer physicality needed to see them added to the excitement of the gallery performances.

The crowd saw 14 short dances, each four minutes or less, performed by pairs of dancers on and around a mobile, four-foot-square platform.  Two singers, two guitarists, a cellist, and a French horn player created the improvised music. As each dance ended, the platform was carried — with some difficulty — to a new position in the gallery and set before a selected Wadley or Campbell art work. The audience members followed platform, negotiating with each other on the fly for new viewing positions.

“I found the work we did with the musicians during the semester and for this project quite rewarding,” says Wolf of the performances. “I appreciated the level of performance the dancers and musicians brought to their pieces, for the choices they made as choreographers, and for the turnout of audience, which was surprising and so intimate for the performers. It offered a new performance experience for many.”

Led by Varner and Wolf, the Dance Compositional and Music Improvisation classes explored the possibilities of collaboration, a principle that Cornish has long promoted as a means of breaking down the barriers between arts disciplines. Given departmental demands and extremely busy schedules, collaboration is not always easy.  But innovative approaches like Wolf’s and Varner’s increasingly point the way.

“Stepping outside yourself stirs the imagination,” says Wolf of the collaborative work. “That’s what this assignment was essentially about. … Whether responding to or being inspired by the everyday world around them or to another artist’s creative work, the students were meant to find new sources of stimulation for their own creativity.”

Varner is equally upbeat about the collaboration. “It was wonderful for the students in my ‘Improvisation II’ class to be involved in this performance. As music improvisers, it is a real learning process—and fun, too—to add musical sound to a ‘platform’ of movement and visual art.”

Tom Varner believes the experience of the event continues to pay dividends for his music students. “In a later performance, without the dancers or the visual art,” he says, “we still ‘envisioned’ the dance platform to create a more complete music performance. Big thanks to Deborah Wolf.”

The collaborative classes are just one example of the innovative curricula available at Cornish. The next academic term offer more such innovations including a newly combined foundation for art and design that will bring students from those disciplines closer together.


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