Visions of women in movement


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Often, when someone utters the word “dance,” it triggers a narrow assembly of images. Yet no single style defines dance, just as no one model fits all women.

Graduate students in dance Elizabeth Bergman, Lynn Bowman, and Sydnie Mosley have created a podium for “female agency” in their thesis concert, Sadie Hawkins Dance. The thesis performance is “Where Women Take Charge — On Stage,” according to production’s retro cartoon-themed poster.

Despite the feminist “We can do it” appearance of the female-friendly show, the choreography does not cater to rash judgments and assumptions.

“We’re all pro-men,” said Bergman, a M.F.A. candidate in performance. The show is meant to display the diverse ways of conveying the female prototype. She challenges people’s view of the female body in her solo piece “Watch Me Harder,” choreographed by graduate student Joanna Rosenthal. While observing a female dancer onstage, Bergman believes it is often difficult for an audience to overcome classic female body images. In reference to the solo, she posed one question: “Is it possible not to objectify [the female body]?”

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Mosley, a graduate student in choreography, found inspiration in her favorite book, Their Eyes Were Watching God, when creating “A Side of the World for a Canvas.” The piece achieves the group’s intention of “representing perspectives” by investigating women’s roles in society when independent or united. Mosley’s original choreography experiments with audience participation, live music, and text to accompany its coming-of-age tales.

Bowman, also a graduate student in choreography, harnesses her Midwestern farming heritage in “Threshold” to honor the gallant spirit of women pioneers. Six dancers recreate a family history passed down through letters, photographs, memoirs, and the stories of Bowman’s 94-year-old grandfather. She creates her own artistic definition of a specific group of women to promote her interest in “aesthetic understandings of heritage.” A region-defining set design by Shawn Maxwell and innovative lighting by Courtney Watson build on Bowman’s artistic vision.

All three performers are interested in dance’s ability to send messages.

“We’re not trying to be preachy,” said Bergman, who continues to play with the interpretation of the female model in “Conveyance.” The piece is a ballet pas de deux choreographed by faculty member Deanna Carter in which Bergman dances with a male partner in a more “cliché battle of the sexes.”

Mosley celebrates the gift of movement in her solo choreography “Granted.” The graduate student performers acknowledge dance is often overlooked in its “diverse range” of communicating ideas.

“We’re not looking to be pretentious,” Bowman said. The three do not force a “pants or suits” message of women’s liberation.

They hope to present a sampling of possibilities for how femininity and sexuality can be expressed on the concert stage. The dancers prove that sometimes even the most simple of movements can convey the most meaningful of ideas.

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