Shenandoah Conservatory’s Dance Division has teamed up with internationally renowned Chicago-based repertory company DanceWorks Chicago to create and present a virtual performance featuring selections from the iconic work “Rosas Danst Rosas” by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. The work premieres online on Shenandoah Conservatory’s Facebook page at 2 p.m. EST on Friday, May 8. A live interview with the artists and collaborators will follow.
The project features students from the conservatory’s advanced modern dance class, two recent Shenandoah Conservatory alumni and a cohort of professional dancers from DanceWorks Chicago. Co-produced by Assistant Professor of Dance Matt Pardo, M.F.A., and Co-Founder/Artistic Director of DanceWorks Chicago Julie Nakagawa, with film and editing by cinematographer Devon Donis of Adonis Visuals, the project is one of many examples of how the conservatory has partnered with industry artists to create new digital content during the COVID-19 crisis.
“A time of challenge can inspire innovation,” said Nakagawa. “Shenandoah University’s invitation to DanceWorks Chicago to build on our existing relationship demonstrates its commitment to innovative partnerships, forward-thinking programs and creative energy.”
The project was initially designed to offer students a chance to continue developing high-level performance skills even while under quarantine, but, as Pardo explains, “it has also given our dancers an opportunity to collaborate with some of the country’s best early career professional artists.” Pardo continued, “Shenandoah Conservatory values collaboration, and this project will help nurture our relationship with a company whose expressed mission is to help young artists further develop into their best artistic selves.” In addition to serving the needs of current students, the project also engages alumni in a meaningful way and at a crucial time. “Artists will continue to be especially hard hit as a result of this pandemic,” Pardo said “By incorporating two of our many amazing alumni, SU continues supporting and cultivating its community in an effort to help them grow further despite the challenges of this global crisis.”
Originally choreographed in 1983 by world-renowned Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, “Rosas Danst Rosas” was a natural choice for the project as it allows room for adaptations and interpretation. The dancers will perform the second section from the work, which features dances with and on chairs. There are four movement tracks in the original work and the 20 dancers have been given specific tracks to learn. For the final performance, the dancers will be positioned on a digital screen based on what track they have learned and each dancer will perform the work from their own location. The 20 dancers will perform the original movement score of the work and will also re-imagine the choreographic score in smaller sections, giving them an opportunity to collaborate with each other in the redesign of De Keersmaeker’s iconic choreography. Dancers will be performing the work from their home locations all over the world, including sites along the east coast, Chicago and as far west as Hawaii. “It’s exciting to bring this work to life in a virtual, but socially connected performance,” Pardo said. “The work allows us to perform alone – together.”
Ultimately, Pardo and Nakagawa see this project as more than just a performance: it is an expression of their shared mission as artists and educators, and that mission has never been more important than it is now. As Pardo explained, “this project demonstrates that the more we engage and support each other — even while apart — the more we can continue our shared push for excellence in the arts.”
Nakagawa, expanded on what makes this particular partnership and project so meaningful. “Our organizations share values around being compassionate citizens who are committed to making responsible contributions within a community, a nation and the world. This project is a powerful demonstration of those shared values.”
Others in the dance world appear to agree — this is an important project and partnership. In addition to the online premiere, the project will be highlighted in an upcoming feature by Jennifer Edwards of The Dance Enthusiast, an acclaimed digital news site and arts organization that serves the dance community by engaging audiences, artists and writers in conversations about dance.
Shenandoah Conservatory and DanceWorks Chicago’s “Rosas Danst Rosas” premieres online at 2 p.m. EST on Friday, May 8, and audiences can access the free performance by logging onto Shenandoah Conservatory’s Facebook page. The performance, which is approximately 10 minutes, will be followed by a live interview with the artists. Audiences are invited to submit questions via the Facebook comments section. For more information visit ConservatoryPerforms.org or join us on Facebook.