Kirk presents M.F.A. dance thesis


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The musical score does not dictate the dancers' movement in Johanna Kirk's piece "of air and amnion."

Instead, the use of audible breathing is an important element in the piece. For every step the dancers are in sync, movement is cued by a performer's breathing.

The breathing patterns allow the dancers stay together in time and build their energy levels throughout the piece.

Kirk, who will receive an M.F.A. in choreography from the University of Iowa Dance Department, wanted to explore the concept of pregnancy and women's experiences, both mental and physical.

She collaborated with Jason Gregory, an M.F.A. candidate in music composition, and visual artist and birth worker Monica Brasile to add two elements to her piece.

Kirk chose to make her thesis site different from most and create a long piece that will be performed at 11 a.m., 2 p.m., and 7 p.m. on Saturday in Old Brick, 26 E. Market St. There will also be a free preview show for the UI Hospitals and Clinics' Project Art at noon Friday in the main atrium.

Admission is a suggested $5 donation, which will go toward the Friends of Iowa Midwives.

Kirk first started to work on the solo performances for the piece after she interviewed several women about their pregnancies. She used that in addition to the women's personalities as the foundation for the movement.

Because none of the dancers have experienced pregnancy, UI senior Erica Bohac said, it was challenging to dance in this piece.

"I feel like [Kirk] has done a good job relating the experience of being pregnant to something very human," Bohac said. "The movement in itself is very powerful."

The piece Kirk created is 60 minutes long, and while that is physically challenging for the dancers, Bohac said, it also requires them to be mentally and emotionally invested in the piece.

"[Kirk] has asked us to be extremely sensitive to our bodies and needs, as though we are pregnant, and to be really aware of the other dancers," Bohac said. "It's exhausting for your brain as well as your body."

UI sophomore Lizzy Mello said it has been a challenging experience for her because she comes from a ballet background.

"We are all submerged in this little world and focused on the dance," she said. "It's much more of a community."

Kirk wanted the audience to be connected to the performance, so she chose Old Brick as the venue.

"[Old Brick] gave me the opportunity to have more creative control over the space so the audience could be part of the world the dancers, [Brasile's] paintings, and Gregory's score will create," Kirk said. "I intend the work to be welcoming and inclusive and something to be experienced more than observed."

She not collaborated with the composer and visual artist, she also collaborated with her dancers in the creation of the piece.

"This piece has been a totally new experience and different way of working, which is part of why I signed on to it," Bohac said. "I feel like we have had a say as dancers, which is really cool to feel like you are part of the creative process. I think it's going to be really rewarding to be able to share [this piece]."

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