ARDT combines sculpture with original compositions

Laura Testino

Dancers in Alabama Repertory Dance Theatre will sync with more than just the music in “aeolian,” a piece by professor Sarah M. Barry, in the ARDT Spring 2014 Concert.

Barry’s piece integrates nearly 200 fiberglass sculptures in the manifestation of its theme and concept.

The sculptures, titled in their entirety as “cresente,” are the work of Kelly Shannon, an master’s student studying studio art with an emphasis in sculpture. After seeing Shannon’s work in a gallery over the summer, Barry was inspired as a choreographer, and quickly approached Shannon about collaborating with ARDT.

“If you think about creative personalities, there’s no real reason to have set and regimented delineations between the arts – between theater or dance, or music or sculpture, or painting and drawing,” Shannon said. “There’s so many similarities between them that a lot of those divisions seem pointless.”

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Shannon and Barry have both been pleased with the way this collaboration of art media has transferred to the stage setting.

“Something that’s really interesting about … the way the sets are placed on stage, is that, depending on where you’re sitting in the audience, you’re going to have a really different perspective of the dance,” Barry said. “So you’re really kind of viewing the movement almost through the sculptures. … Sometimes you really mostly see the sculpture, and sometimes you see more the dancing. Also, this piece has become more of a visual experience than a kinetic experience, which is a little different for me.”

Barry began “aeolian” – which means “wind blown” – by pulling words from the artist statement and thesis paper Shannon wrote about the sculptures, using those as roots from which movement could then grow. The choreography is the final combination of phrases composed by both Barry and her dancers.

“It was really exciting for me to see some of the early rehearsals where the dancers would start out on the floor, where they would be eventually screened by the sculptures, and then have an arm pop up that was just sort of doing this growing, popping up out-of-nowhere thing … [Barry] definitely was trying to be inspired by the things that inspired me, and it’s been really exciting to see that transformation,” Shannon said.

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Scott O’Toole, a second year master’s student studying percussion performance, also took inspiration from Shannon’s sculptures in order to compose “Nautical,” original music for the piece. O’Toole has been an accompanist for Barry’s modern classes for almost two years, and will be playing his music live on stage during “aeolian.”

“Dancers, I think they like having live music because they can manipulate it more than a recording; it’s like you’re actually talking to a person, working with a person. You’re adjusting things on both sides, instead of constantly feeling like you need to adjust to a recording that never changes,” O’Toole said. “The hierarchy is broken down; it’s more like this third energy is created between two people.”

Hilary Schaff, a senior majoring in dance, has worked with Barry multiple times over the past four years, and said she enjoyed being a part of this collaborative experience for her last semester in ARDT.

“We’re using live music, adding in more depth to the stage, and really using every facility that’s around us, and incorporating more artistic viewpoints. … You can tell the faculty are trying to push themselves even more and push us to incorporate new things into our works,” she said.

While Barry initiated the idea of creating movement to accompany the themes evoked by Shannon’s sculptures, she values the artistic interpretations of the dancers in her cast.

“I like for the dancers’ movements and ideas to be a part of the piece, because I think it gives them a different sense of ownership with the performance and with the material,” Barry said.

ARDT will include Barry’s modern piece, as well as dances of other styles choreographed by the dance faculty. Performances will be Feb. 18-20 at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 21 at 5:30 p.m. and Feb. 22 at 2 p.m. in Morgan Auditorium. Tickets can be purchased at the box office or online at

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