UI dance department graduates present thesis concert

BY JOSIE JONES | APRIL 08, 2010 7:30 AM

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Jung Hyun Lee likes to wear her sweat pants with the right leg pushed up. So, when deciding what costume to wear during her solo thesis performance, she remained true to her habit.

The 30-year-old from South Korea will perform three separate pieces as a part of the University of Iowa dance department’s graduate-student thesis concert — which will also have works choreographed by fellow graduate students Lance Hendrix and Jennifer Weber. The concert, Memory Touch, will open at 8 p.m. today in North Hall’s Space/Place. The performances will continue through Saturday with all shows at 8 p.m. Admission ranges from $6 to $12, free with valid UI student ID.

The three graduate students named the thesis concert Memory Touch because each piece possesses a common theme of past memories and influences. Hendrix said each dance focuses on a personal experience and those memories.

Hendrix’s piece, “Home Front,” is about families who have family members deployed in the armed services. A friend of Hendrix was on his fourth tour in Iraq when he was killed in 2005. A subsequent dream about the mother and brother of his friend in early 2009 inspired the work for his piece.

“I think when we are presenting our own memories, and once it has been seen — depending on if it has an effect on someone — it immediately becomes a memory [for them] as well,” he said.

Described as a multimedia show by Hendrix, “Home Front” mixes music and text visible through television and audio representations. His music choices range from contemporary classical to electronic, which helps enhance his 24-minute production.

Lee decided to portray the concepts of identity, unity, and diversity in her thesis because she is always curious about herself.

“I believe that most people have more than one personality, and sometimes it shows differently,” she said. “I just wanted to show more about me as a person and as a dancer.”

In her favorite sweat pants and a simple T-shirt, Lee will perform a solo piece focusing on identity.

The dance, which was designed separately by UI alumna Dawn Poirier and dance Professor Alan Sener, is really two different choreographed pieces that merge into one arrangement.

Lee will also perform a duet with senior Erin Donohue that embraces the concept of unity, as well as in a quartet that explores the idea of diversity. Even though Lee said she is picky about whom she works with in her thesis, she appreciates the collaborations.

“They have a great amount of knowledge in technique, and they can move well,” Lee said while sipping an iced latte at Starbucks. “But the best thing is that they can communicate well with me.”

While communication sometimes poses a problem, Lee also faced the daunting challenge of exploring cultural differences through dance. In South Korea, dancers must choose what kind of dance — whether it be Korean, modern, or ballet — they want to study. Lee enjoys being able to focus on different types of dance equally at the UI.

“A combination of both is better than choosing one,” she said. “Especially with modern and ballet, because they really connect the basic knowledge and help each other.”

She is also presenting a piece she choreographed — “Desert in Oasis.”

Like Lee, Weber is also intrigued with social and cultural dance. Her piece, “Spectrum,” explores social cohension in communities. The basis of her idea sprang from the important women in her life, including her grandmother, mother, and sister. After performing her research, Weber realized the piece was bigger than she originally thought.

“I wanted to focus on community at large and what it means to consciously choose to become part of a community,” she said. “And the importance of not losing your individuality when you become part of that community.”

To signify a community and separate individuals, Weber chose the costumes for her thesis very carefully. Each dancer will wear a different colored top — which represents individualism — paired with black capris. A white button-down see-through shirt over the colored top will identify their unification.

Margaret Mead-Finizio, a friend of Weber’s for eight years, has helped her with the lighting design for “Spectrum.”

“[Mead-Finizio’s] understanding of dance with lighting skills would help illuminate the work,” Weber said. “And make it even that much clearer in what I’m trying to say and what I want to come across.”

While the special effects help create meaning to the concert, she feels the dance aspect itself is most important.

“The actual physical moving and physical telling of what the [dancing] is doing, I think, connects to people on a different level,” she said.

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