Ensemble to showcase modern dance

by Marley Marius | 3/5/14 7:10pm

by Natalie Cantave / The Dartmouth

By experimenting with music in unconventional time signatures and exploring a wide range of modern movement, the Dartmouth Dance Ensemble will perform the winter showcase “Diversions and Sports” tonight, headed by two-time guest director John Heginbotham.

The performance will feature three new works by Heginbotham, in addition to the reprisal of a piece choreographed by fall guest director Rebecca Darling.

Darling’s work is “smooth and silky,” ensemble dancer Kemi Mugo ’15 said, while Heginbotham’s is more “athletic and punchy.”

The show will draw heavily on local community contributions. In one piece, titled “The End,” Upper Valley residents will join the ensemble to dance to music composed by digital musics graduate student Carlos Dominguez.

Heginbotham first worked with Dominguez a year ago, when he and two of his peers were asked to perform live music for the ensemble’s concert last March. Heginbotham called Dominguez flexible and rigorous.

“I felt like that combination of things could work well for this piece,” Heginbotham said.

Serving as the concert’s finale, “The End” looks at how individuals relate to community and the future, Heginbotham said. Each performer utilizes nine distinct dance moves in the piece executed in various comnbinations, Mugo said.

Besides Darling’s piece “DisCONNECTed,” the winter showcase also includes “Sports and Diversions,” a work set to Erik Satie’s absurdist 1914 work “Sports Et Divertissements” and “3 in 5/4,” a piece performed to three popular songs written in the unconventional 5/4 meter.

Scott Smedinghoff, a graduate student in the mathematics department who will play the piano during “Sports and Diversions,” said that the creative process has been collaborative, in part because of the ambiguity of the piece’s tempo markings.

“This music is kind of weird,” he said. “Satie clearly had a great sense of humor, so I’ve told John some of my ideas on how I want to play [the piece] and how it might go with the dancers, and he’s listened to that. There’s been a lot of back and forth.”

Heginbotham said that “3 in 5/4” was easiest to choreograph, often a sign, he said, that he is doing something right.

“I like the movement that came out of it,” he said. “I like how the dancers perform it, and it taught me things about music, so I’m really excited about that one.”

Radiohead’s “15 Step” is featured in “DisCONNECTed,” a parallel that Mugo thinks will intrigue audiences in its paring of song to choreography.

Despite the occasional difficulty to get every ensemble member “in the same room at the same time,” Heginbotham said that preparing for tonight’s show has been delightful.

“[The students are] all really enthusiastic, they’re all super hard workers and they’re all interested in creating this thing together.”

A native of Alaska, Heginbotham danced with the Mark Morris Dance Group after graduating from The Juilliard School in 1993. He now serves as a lecturer at Princeton’s Lewis Center of the Arts and a founding teacher of Dance for PD, an organization offering dance classes for those with Parkinson’s disease. He returned to Dartmouth this January after having directed the dance ensemble last fall and winter.

The ensemble performs tonight at 7 p.m. in Moore Theater.