Who would have thought that a thrown out math book could act as a catalyst for a modern dance piece?
Ty Vennewitz, a student choreographer and dance major, found the inspiration for his piece, Mathematical Recreations: Part 0, Part pi, within the pages of Fractal Music, Hypercards and More, a math book by Martin Gardner.
“I guess math seems to be everywhere and I don’t see why dance would be any different. Part of the book’s title is Fractal Music, and music is a big part of dance,” Vennewitz said.
The piece is composed of two sections, where the original idea for Part 0, the first section, was having the dancers measure the lengths of certain parts of their bodies and calculate their golden ratios from the lengths measured, but Vennewitz felt the dancers and his choreography were getting too “bogged down,” and decided to make the piece more “dancey.” The section now includes ping-pong balls Velcroed to the dancers’ joints.
“The second section, Part pi, is a humorous look at the absurdity of our educational system,” Vennewitz said. The piece is set on three dancers. The second section has one orating a monologue similar to a math teacher’s lecture using excerpts from Fractal Music. One dancer crawls/dances across the floor--the tortured student. The third dancer performs gymnastic like moves, acting as an exemplary student, “jumping through the hoops,” as Vennewitz said. The dancers speak and crawl, bound in front of images projected onto an onstage screen behind the dancers, including a slide presentation reinforcing the orated mathematical jargon.
Vennewitz, a former engineering major, is quite familiar with math, having taken the calculus series before transferring into the dance department where he will be receiving his BA this summer.
“I think people will enjoy it even if they don’t like mathematics, maybe even more if they don’t,” Vennewitz said.
Megan Riddle’s piece, entitled You Always Do, uses Johnny Cash music as a backdrop for her large cast of dancers. Her piece teeters between energetic, jaunty group movement while shifting back to a poignant pas de deux, or romantic duet.
“The inspiration from my piece stemmed from stories my grandmother had written and told me about her life. Through the process I found myself using similar life experiences of my own to inspire me,” Riddle, a dance major, said. “Pretty much it seems to be about little things that may go wrong in relationships between people,” Riddle said.
Whereas some are experimenting with emotions or fractals, Kelly Sullivan is experimenting with space. Sullivan is excited by the chance to set a piece on the Main Stage in the PAC, and she choreographed accordingly.
“One thing I’ve kind of become obsessed with is how space is organized and shaped by movement,” said Sullivan. “In this piece, its frame of the big stage, I think that this aspect when used can be used really well.”
“I’ve had this piece of music called Electric Counterpoint by Steve Reich. I’ve had it since high school . . . I started listening to it last year and started imagining this image of people being stuck and trying to fly. Stuck in one place and pushing to get out of it but not being able to move. Kind of representative of the cyclical patterns in life,” Sullivan said about the inspiration behind her new piece.
“The piece is in three sections and I basically see it as the process of moving from a place of being stuck to a place of being free. But I don’t think anyone has to interpret it in that way,” Sullivan said. “Something having to do with the concept of taking flight. Words like soaring, levity, aerial swell, something that encompasses taking flight and getting bigger—taking off.”
Four other pieces will be performed at the show. Choreography by students Lena Traenkenschuh, Vanessa Wallen and Andrea Squires, as well as Dance faculty member Jessica Kruger-Stahl will also be performed.
“I think students will be surprised by the level of professionalism seen,” Sullivan said.
Opening night of Danceworks is Thursday, January 25, and the show will run through Sunday January 28. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and on Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $8 for students and are available at the PAC box office.