Ann Arbor Dance Works — the University’s own professional dance company that comprises students, faculty and guest choreographers — is taking its craft to the streets. For its 27th annual concert “Corsets, Grains & Greenways: Dancing Downtown Ann Arbor,” the audience will follow dancers through galleries, gardens, streets and railroad tracks, with dancing at each site and in between.
Corsets, Grains & Greenways: Dancing Downtown Ann Arbor
Through June 9, 7 p.m. daily
Beginning at WSG Gallery
Jessica Fogel, AADW Artistic Director and faculty member of the dance department, explained her passion for site-specific work or performance outside of the typical proscenium stage-space.
“I like the challenges,” she said. “I like the way that the site provides a lot of information. It’s like a music score.”
For her work, Fogel studied the rich history of the current WSG Gallery, embracing its changes from a corset factory, to a hardware store, to a clothing store and then to the art gallery.
“I was interested in the way that the building went through various transformations that went from one kind of ‘hard wear’ — something that was hard to wear — to hardware, to what to wear,” Fogel said.
Guest artist Monica Bill Barnes is the Artistic Director and choreographer for her own New York City dance company, Monica Bill Barnes & Company. Her Ann Arbor residency lasted one week when she taught technique class and choreographed a repertory work. AADW performer and Michigan Dance Department senior Morgan Wallace enjoyed the process.
“For me her piece goes in and out of what dancers focus on, being very physical and moving a lot, but also being very human,” Wallace said. “What I like about it is that I feel like no matter where you’re coming from, you can connect to it.”
But while dancing in open air is invigorating, it certainly presents its challenges. Sometimes construction interfered with the path. Often the stoplight turned green when they were supposed to be dancing across the street.
“As a performer, it’s interesting to adapt each time we go in the performance space, because it’s always different,” Wallace said.
“It’s a new physical challenge and we have to work with it,” she added.
Faculty member Robin Wilson’s choreography is accompanied by the live music of the Willis C. Patterson Our Own Thing chorale. Wilson’s dance alongside the railroad tracks pays homage to the gandy dancers who laid tracks down on railroads before the invention of machines.
Besides the dancing, this performance emphasizes the importance of connections and collaborations. For this project, there have been a number of community partners including the Allen Creek Greenway Conservancy, Community High School’s Dance Body, Downtown Home and Garden, the Willis C. Patterson Our Own Thing chorale and the WSG Gallery.
“There’s a theme of connectivity,” Fogel said.
Past and present confront the future as AADW supports the mission of the Allen Creek Greenway Conservancy “to transform a whole area along the railroad tracks into a greenway, a park of trails connecting the downtown community to outlying communities.”
“It’s got a lot of history along there, but it’s also got a lot of potential that’s unrealized,” Fogel said. “It’s the movement from a celebrated space to a space that needs more celebration. And we’re celebrating it with dance … if we dance then it will happen.”