“Ancient Steps, Forward Glances” uses the past as a basis for looking at the present and the future. The University”s Dance Company presents a performance where the ancient meets the present.

Paul Wong
Courtesy of University Productions

One of the dance routines, “World of Birds,” has been choreographed by Bambang Irawan and Noor Forida Rahmalina, two Javanese dancers who are in residence at the University. In this piece, the ancient traditional court dances of Java are melded with contemporary Indonesian movement in Javanese style. The presence of this piece in the program gives it an East meets West connection of the ancient and more modern.

Guest choreographer David Dorfman”s “Depth Charge” questions what the future will hold. As part of his collaborative style with his dancers, Dorfman had them write down some of their feelings and thoughts, some which were incorporated into “Depth Charge.” “Dorfman”s piece is very challenging. It speaks to the questions of what you thought you would be doing at this point. It is very emotional in some ways because the piece was choreographed around the time of September 11,” said dancer Gena Buhler.

Dorfman, a postmodern choreographer, synthesizes his steps from the dancers end. According to Jessica Fogel, a University dance department faculty, a postmodern designer comes in with a blueprint and then the dancers are then allowed to modify parts of the dance. While there have been different phases in dance over time, the postmodern movement tries to put meaning into the dance after years of having abstract dance. The use of text is very common in postmodern works. The emphasis is on breaking the barrier between the audience and the performers, making the experience more personal.

Fogel and fellow dance department faculty member Peter Sparling have also choreographed works for the performance. Sparling, artistic director of the Peter Sparling Dance Company and a former principal with the Martha Graham Dance Company, has choreographed “Patient Spider” for the production. The Walt Whitman”s poem, “A Noiseless Patient Spider,” inspired the dance. “Patient Spider” has its own unique aspect to bring the past and future together. While 13 dancers will perform on stage, there will be a video projection of four dancers at the rear stage as well.

Jessica Fogel”s piece, “Brave Souls,” was commissioned by the University of Michigan Museum of Art for part of their upcoming exhibit “Women Who Ruled: Queens, Goddesses, Amazons 1500-1650.” The dance will contain visual images from the exhibit. Also incorporated into the dance is an archaeological dig from Kazikstan, where women were found buried with their weapons.

Fogel collaborated with her 14 female dancers and discussed what would make them go into battle and feel powerful. The phrases were shaped into duets, Fogel said. “There are very different stories about power, the lighter to close to the marrow.”

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