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UI Dance Department focuses on mythology

BY SAMANTHA GENTRY | DECEMBER 01, 2011 7:20 AM

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Performers will take advantage of every inch of the floor in North Hall's Space/Place this weekend in the University of Iowa Dance Department's Collaborative Perfomance.

The dancers will move to different scenes in the space — a living room, a basement, a Greek monument, and the outdoors — to portray their versions of classic myths and urban legends.

The Dance Department's Collaborative Performance Class will host the show Tales of Mortals, Gods, and the Things They Do at 8 p.m. today; performances continue through Dec. 4. Admission is free for UI students with valid IDs, $6 for seniors and youth, and $12 for the general public.

David Hanzal, a second-year graduate student pursuing an M.F.A. in directing, said Assistant Professor Deanna Carter continually encourages students to use the class as a lab. To her, it serves as a place where they can push their creative boundaries.

"What's great about this class is we have all been given the freedom to do something we haven't done before," Hanzal said. "With this class, I wanted to experiment with creating a script from scratch with the other actors. That's something I've never really done before, and I have learned so much."

Hanzal created a triptych, and he collaborated with fellow graduate students to create different points of view on the classic tale of Adam and Eve. Gabriel Anderson and Johanna Kirk choreographed the piece with Hanzal, and Levi Smith produced a film to complement the pieces.

The section created by Hanzal follows the story of two children who get locked in their basement after seeing their mother have sex with a strange man.

They perform a television-show ritual in which they tell the story of Adam and Eve, but it takes a dark and grotesque turn. Puppets also act as characters in this portion of the performance.

Following the three diverse stories of Adam and Eve is Rebecca Chun's piece, which tells the tale of the Greek myth of Persephone and the underworld.

Even though the gods decide the fate of Persephone in the traditioal story, Chun wanted the character to have her own mind and not become a victim.

"I didn't want her to just be an object passed around by the gods," Chun said. "I wanted her to have some agency. I felt like she needed to be a powerful woman."

The collaborators were drawn to the underworld and "over-world" used in the original myth. For this performance, the underworld will be on stage with the actors and the over-world will be displayed in a film produced by Alex de la Peña.

"I think there was an idea of how technology and life interface with this piece," Chun said. "It's a performance instead of just a dance that is campy and kind of rompy."

Christopher Masters, a second-year graduate student in dance, took a different approach with his piece, focusing on urban legends.

In a slumber-party scene, the audience sees characters exchanging urban myths about the evil ghost of Bloody Mary and the notion that Pop Rocks and soda can make one's stomach explode.

For this particular scene, Masters collaborated with his cast and took into consideration what his dancers could say with their bodies.

"I feel when you take the opportunity to allow the performers to have some ownership in what they are doing, it makes it more readable," Masters said.

He hopes that removing the seats from the theater will allow the dancers to express themselves fully and give the audience a way to look at the pieces from different points of view.

"One of the really great things about this performance is we were told to create and make something new and original," he said. "I have yet to see any of the other works, so it will be really interesting to see how everything comes together."


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