33 Years of Movement


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The lighting has been set, the colorfully woven costumes have been completed, and the dancers have practiced and practiced (and practiced) the choreography for the 33rd-annual Dance Gala.

The University of Iowa Dance Department's Dance Gala will open at 8 p.m. today in North Hall's Space/Place. Performances will continue through Oct. 26, with a 2 p.m. show on Oct. 20. Admission ranges from $5 to $20.

As the costumes and stage lighting are tweaked, the dancers are ready for the production they have been preparing for since the beginning of the school year.

The theme for this year's gala brings in modern versions of the past, employing a contemporary view expressing the range of the human body and showcasing the works of UI faculty and internationally acclaimed choreographers.

Student dancer Zachary Bird says this year's pieces reflect a contemporary theme.

"The pieces are created by choreographers who are a part of the contemporary world, danced by dancers who live a contemporary life," he said. "In this way and many others that make this production, I feel the audience can have easier access to connect to these pieces."

George De La Peña, the head of the UI Dance Department, said this year's theme incorporates aspects of the societal addiction to digital technology in the modern world.

"It's contemporary work that is very innovative. Within some of the works is the exploration of digital technology," he said. "We're exploring more ways of using digital technology in dances — their impact on society and us."

The choreographers taking part in this year's gala include faculty members Charlotte Adams, Eloy Barragán, and Jennifer Kayle. The dances will feature Adams' "The Secret Life of Gravity No. 2," which is a construction of her February piece, Barragán's première of "Bona Cara ?!?!," and Kayle's reconstruction piece "A Million Fools on Fire."

Adams has been a part of the Dance Department since 1998 and has worked in the gala since 1999. Her piece this year is a follow-up work from her dance "Secret Life of Gravity," which incorporates the ability to strive in life through the pitfalls along the way.

The dance focuses on the concept of fighting gravity and floating away from Earth and contains elements of suspension. Adams has incorporated aspects of digital technology, using photographer Alex de la Peña and incorporating the marriage of the visual components to complement the dance, adding further depth to the piece.

"Once pieces go up on stage, the excitement level gets higher. The focus and performance presence of the dancers comes out," Adams said. "We're nervous and excited; they really start to bring their best to the stage at this point, and the hours of rehearsal begin to really pay off."

This year's featured choreographers include Simone Ferro, a UI alumna whose reconstruction piece of the 2007 work "Magnetic Field" will focus on the physical relationship of a couple, featuring a duet, and Grant Wood Fellow Esther Baker-Tarpaga's "How does th!$ app work? lol feels like I'm mi$behaving," a première piece that reflects the addiction to digital technology and social media in which dancers use their digital devices.

UI student Lauren Linder celebrates her third year in the gala, saying she is particularly excited about how far the dancers have come. This year, Linder will participate in guest artist Baker-Tarpaga's "How does th!$ app work? lol feels like I'm mi$behaving."

"I usually can't say that I like every work, but that's true this year. Everyone performing is so talented, and there is a wide range of works," Linder said. "It's physical, funny, provocative, and there are some cool dance moves."

Margaret Wenk-Kuchlbauer and Juliana Waechter, two costume coordinators for the gala, prepared for the production by stitching together the fabrics that complement the contemporary theme, each costume including modern elements to reflect that of the dance.

"The message of the choreography is all about words — secrets and things that we don't know," Wenk-Kuchlbauer said. "The costumes reflect that to the audience containing pockets and areas for notes to communicate with the audience."

De La Peña said the community engagement and attendance has been fantastic in years past for the gala. The New York City native has been impressed by the attention that the gala has gained throughout the years.

"We're in full on pre-performance mode, feverishly running through the programs this week," he said. "The dancers are very excited; they're doing great work."

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