‘Dance Up Close’ invites audiences once again to the Masquer Theater | Local news

The energy has been different this week at the Masquer Theater, as student choreographers and dancers at the University of Montana prepare to once again welcome a live audience inside for the first time since early 2020.

“We’re thrilled to have audience members in our theaters again, and this looks like a new chapter,” said Brooklyn Draper, associate dance teacher and co-producer.

This week’s “Dance Up Close” marks the return of the program to the normal presentation of its concerts. During the pandemic, they tried various workarounds to keep creating and sharing their art. They recorded tracks in a mix of dance and film and streamed them. Last April, they hosted a ‘parking garage’ performance near Mansfield Library, where members of the public watched from their vehicles and made outdoor plays on site.

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This show is therefore a return to their basic model. Draper and UM Associate Professor Heidi Jones Eggert produced the show, with nine original pieces, all choreographed by three juniors and six seniors as part of their undergraduate work.

The choreographers have been given the creative freedom because this show is meant to “give them the opportunity to have their personal experience creating whatever they want,” said Draper.

There was no style constraint, only space. It will be performed in the Masquer, with audience members on three sides, instead of the classic Montana Theater stage style, so they had to think about how the plays would feel to viewers from different angles.

They also have access to the school’s lighting, costume and set designers, a creative advantage that is not the case with all programs at other universities.

“Really bringing the finished work to the stage is a really valuable experience for them,” said Draper.

With the help of set designer Brian Grégoire, they were able to bring innovative ideas to the stage. During choreographer Maeve Fahey’s piece, “Unknown Trajectory”, some dancers will stand on top of a rotating platform while others spin it, creating a “beautiful level of spatial dynamics in space.” , said Draper.

Fahey, a senior in the show, said the idea for the platform arose out of the Masquer’s seating arrangement and that she would play well, sort of like “giant lazy Susan” in her first imagination. Gregory and company built a two-level platform, with about 6 feet of space for the upper level. She choreographed for eight dancers, with two or three on top. Besides movement, it can allow moments of suspension and stillness, almost like an exhibition.

The concept relates to “an acceptance to follow paths or trajectories that you don’t really expect or are not prepared for,” she said.

She has experience in teaching and choreography, but this was her first opportunity to work with lighting, costume and set designers. “It’s really exciting to work with other people in different fields who know what they’re doing,” she said.

Georgia Littig’s play “Good Eggs” is a duet. She and another dancer emerge from the large eggshells built by the design team. Hannah Gibbs, the lighting designer, “creates these shadows and you can see them moving like a shadow inside the eggs” at the start.

Choreographer Bella Kasper explores the nature of how and why we break the rules within institutions in her duet piece, “The Unexpected Movements of Tennis: Breaking the College Expectation to Conform Through Dance”. While her concept and themes are serious, she “represents it in a quirky way on stage,” Draper said.

Dancers Liana Dillon and Hannah Dusek will start playing tennis, with a net and rackets, and then slowly start breaking the rules in order to question what happens when you overturn spoken or unspoken norms.

In “And Then, the Influence Shifted,” Dusek explores the dynamics of power, as there is a sense of support and friction with which she plays. “His dancers display that power in a really strong and beautiful way.”

Draper, choreographer and dancer, said watching the work is a learning experience regardless of career stage, “the moment you realize, ‘ah, that worked’ or ‘it didn’t. it does not work. “”

Upcoming dance activities

The program recently learned that a major conference, the American College Dance Association, will be held at the University of Oregon in early 2022. UM intends to send dancers on stage, including a group that will work with guest artist Ishmael Houston-Jones, dancer, choreographer and award-winning artist.

To help raise funds, the UM Dance Club is raffling off a lithograph by Russell Chatham, “Afternoon at Cedar Lake” from his Flathead Lake series. It is a signed and numbered lithograph. Tickets cost $ 150, and only 150 are available at UM dance performances.

The program will also be bringing back its pre-conference benefit dance concert to raise funds as well.

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