UI Dance Department presents original work


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A trio of dancers adorned in lingerie-inspired costumes move gracefully to an eerie soundtrack as they use personal stories to express themselves through dance.

UI junior Hope Spear, the choreographer, used this personal groundwork to choreograph "For a diamond ring."

"It started out as a solo about the frustrations that women feel, constantly needing to please the opposite sex and how we feel we should act and present ourselves," Spear said. "As it progressed, it turned into how the dancers felt about being pressured to act a certain way."

She will join fellow student choreographers and dancers in the UI Dance Department's Grad/Undergrad Concert at 8 p.m., today in North Hall's Space/Place with shows running through Saturday. Admission is $12 for the general public, $6 for senior citizens and youth 17 and younger.

For more than 30 years, UI students and faculty have produced the Grad/Undergrad Concert, which focuses on bringing students' visions and choreography to life on stage.

This year, 12 choreographers from the department were chosen by a committee of three faculty members, including dance Professor Armando Duarte. They watched the choreographed pieces, provided constructive feedback, and decided who will make it to the stage.

Duarte said that the selection process was very challenging for the committee because there were more than 40 submissions and many elements to consider.

"There are several elements that we take a look at — that the overall work from beginning to end is complete, tight, and concise, the idea is well-rehearsed, and aesthetically to a point that is ready to be performed," Duarte said.

Although Spear is just in her first choreography class at the UI, she was recognized for her talent and got the chance to make her vision for "For a diamond ring" a reality.

"It is a very forward piece representing this idea that a lot of people struggle with, and it is relatable," she said. "The music is almost eerie in a way; it accentuates the rawness and awkwardness of how women sometimes feel."

The concert is a way for dancers at the UI to put their original work on stage for a live audience.

"The importance is to give the choreographers the possibility of their work on display, and it is also about the great number of performers," Duarte said. "You have a team that will support their visions, and they ultimately have the opportunity to share work with a broad audience."

The faculty recognizes the value of the students' creativity, he said, and the concert is the essence of their education.

Second-year graduate student Kristin Marrs, working toward an M.F.A. on the choreography track, said she wanted to challenge herself to create a piece that allowed her to step out of her comfort zone.

"Initially, I thought about wanting to challenge myself to create a piece that didn't use music as its main source of inspiration, because that's normally how I work," she said. "My professor was encouraging us to find a new entry point for choreography."

"40, 70, 110, 180" is the title of the piece Marrs created. She uses metronomes as her inspiration for natural movements based on the tempo.

"The slow tempo has sort of a calmer, whimsical feeling to it, and as the tempos increase over the piece, things get a little more exciting as the piece progresses," Marrs said. "One metronome gets added at a time, and it changes how the dancers move and interact."

The great array of creativity by the students creates a high-quality performance. Duarte said the show is colorful, and there is a variety of works that suit all types of audience.

"[We are] very thankful for not only the university in terms of the support but even in the Iowa City community," he said. "The department has really well-attended concerts; it's a great mirror to what the students do here."

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