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Dance production blends Chopin, Radiohead

Alex Cohen

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Maybe it’s difficult for most college students to wrap their minds around reportorial dance. After all, “ballotte,” “arabesque,” and “pirouette” are not often at the tips of their tongues. Luckily, the University Department of Theatre and Dance wants to make things easier.

Tonight at 7:30 p.m., the department will present Alabama Repertory Dance Theatre, a faculty-choreographed and student-danced production, in Morgan Auditorium.

The culmination of almost 30 dancers’ spring practice, this semester’s ARDT is wrought with great expectations.

“That’s why this company was born,” Corenlius Carter, artistic director of ARDT and director of the University’s dance program, said, “to push students to do difficult work requiring technical ability, physically and intellectually.”

Featuring traditional ballet, modern and ballroom dancing, this semester’s production offers an eclectic mix of styles with each segment choreographed by different faculty members. From curtains’ drawn to close, the pieces tour the art of dance from its historical roots to its modern and commercial forms.

Qianping Guo, assistant professor of dance, staged the first piece—Les Sylphides, originally choreographed by Michel Fokine in 1909. He contends that the ballet demands practice and technical discipline.

“Classical ballet is an extremely serious art,” Qianping said. “Even as a teacher, I must be hardworking and passionate in order to push my students.”

The second act will diverge from Chopin, calling on the music of Radiohead to guide the dancers through a modern piece choreographed by Carter and assistant professor of dance, Sarah M. Barry. Interacting with a set designed by UA sculptor Craig Wedderspoon, the dancers will have the opportunity to explore new dimensions in space.

“We’re playing with an idea of transforming and opening up the whole space,” Barry said. “The set and the music, they’re ambient. You can imagine you’re in a different place and time.”

The choreographers believe that Radiohead also helps the audience, using familiar tunes to deliver unfamiliar movements. Carter and Barry both think the piece also highlights the athleticism of the male dancers in the program, offering a fresh contrast to the Southern perception of male dancers.

The production will culminate with a ballroom dance scene, inspired by the Cuban clubs of Miami. Rita Synder, associate professor of dance, choreographed the piece, happy to give her students the opportunity to learn the art of social dance. She is actually forgoing her own opportunity to compete in a national competition this weekend with her husband and philosophy professor, Dr. Richard Richards. But she believes it’s all about the students.

“Learning these kinds of forms will help [dancers] with auditions,” Synder said. “’So You Think You Can Dance’ and other commercial dance programs are using these forms more and more.”

The last act will also resemble the styles seen in this weekend’s “Dancing with the Bama Stars,” the dance department’s rendition of the Arty Party Fundraiser.

The anticipation is also felt by the students. Ashley Volner, a junior majoring in dance and president of Dance Alabama, believes this particular performance offers something new.

“It involves things we’ve never done before,” Volner said. “It’s changed our movements and even our ways of thinking.”

Even if the audience members can’t utter the ballet terms, Carter thinks finding pleasure in the performance will be a cakewalk.

“We’ve build a following on campus that expects enjoyment,” Carter said. “They’re going to get it.”

Tickets can be purchased at the box office or online at and will cost $18 for adults, $15 for faculty, staff and seniors and $12 for students. Other showings will be 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, 5:30 p.m. on Friday, and 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 31.



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Dance production blends Chopin, Radiohead