Dance Ensemble gears up for annual fall performance

The Dance Ensemble has a technical rehearsal Friday in the Arts Building. (Photos by Vicente Capala)

Leaps, bounds, lights and music: It’s the middle of the semester, and that means that Dance Ensemble is in full swing, prepping for the first of two annual dance concerts on campus.

Unlike “New Dances,” the annual spring semester dance concert, “Dance Ensemble in Concert” is a small production. Instead of upwards of 50 dancers, the fall concert showcases the eight Dance Ensemble members, as well as three Dance Ensemble alumni and UAA’s new faculty dance professor, Katherine Kramer.

“I have (visited) many times,” said Kramer. “Gosh, about a dozen times since the mid ‘90s.”

Brian Jeffery, Dance Ensemble director and UAA dance faculty member, said this year’s ensemble is comprised of all new members, many of them freshmen. Jeffery also said that no one truly leaves the company, even when they graduate.

“We always say that once you’re a member of Dance Ensemble, you’re always a member of Dance Ensemble, whether you’re part of a full-time company or not,” he said.

This year’s concert will consist of four dance pieces. One, “Blackbirds” by Jeffery, is a duet featuring two Dance Ensemble alumni.

Another, Kramer’s “Footprints,” casts the current Dance Ensemble and is meant to explore life’s different twists and turns.

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“It’s a playful piece, but I guess I would call it serious play, because it’s a piece that looks at and addresses things that are both light and heavy,” said Kramer. “In the very beginning of our process, I asked them to make a list of all the places they’d lived. Then they had a big piece of paper and they drew a map that translated and moved through lines to all the different places. … So we used that as a way to create movement.”

Bonnie Moring, an alumna of the student company, is dancing a solo piece choreographed by herself. The piece, “Deceptions vs. Reflections,” is meant to be an introspective one that hangs on the question, “If you find your true reflection, are you content with what you see in the mirror?”

The fourth, though not necessarily final, piece, “One Fish, Two Fish, Dead Fish, Blue Fish,” is by guest artist Lynn Andrews of Minneapolis. The piece features the current ensemble, and is inspired by environmental concerns regarding the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, as well as by the work of visual artist Dale Chihuly.

“I think it’s important that they (the ensemble) get exposure to the guest artists that I bring up from the Lower 48 or people who have worked internationally. Often, professional companies, even though there will be a director, they don’t just work with that one person all the time. They’re often working with illustrious choreographers from around the world,” said Jeffery. “I was very anxious to bring Lynn up … she’s a new artist to Alaska. She’s someone I’ve never brought up before.”

Andrews spent 12 days in September at UAA in an artist residency teaching courses and choreographing the piece, which originally premiered in Birmingham and has been re-imagined for the Anchorage performance.

Like with every production in the Department of Theatre and Dance, “Dance Ensemble in Concert” is produced with funds loaned from the Dean of Students Office, which must be repaid through ticket sales. Costs include costumes, advertising, lighting and other production necessities. Because the company is run through the university, its account can’t roll over funds at the end of the year. In the event of excess revenue from ticket sales (it typically costs around $5,000 to put on the fall concert), money can be used for the spring show to help bring up guest artists or put toward other necessities that benefit the program.

Dance Ensemble in Concert” will run from Friday Oct. 26 through Sunday Nov. 4 in the Harper Studio in the Fine Arts Building. Tickets are $10 for UAA students and $14 for the general public. Tickets can be purchased at the UAA Box Office or online at www.uaatix.com.