Complex Questions Drive Choreography at Intimate Fall Forward
Last night commenced Fall Forward, the Dance department’s premiere production that takes place every November. In past iterations, Fall Forward has boasted lengthy setlists with large group pieces, but this year, under Professor Carter McAdams’ direction, the show will include smaller works by just seven choreographers and will run for two consecutive nights rather than the typical three. Despite its shorter runtime compared to past shows — 45 minutes without intermission — the presented material will showcase an extensive breadth of styles composed by a talented roster of artists, with performances tonight and tomorrow at 7 p.m.
“Last year, many of Oberlin’s student dancers and choreographers graduated, and because of that, there isn’t as much new material in the department presently,” said College sophomore Tyus Southern, who will debut his original solo The Death of Jonathan Kebe this evening. “While that does upset me a bit, I think that the show’s length this year makes [Fall Forward] very accessible for students who have maybe never been to a dance performance.”
According to a Dance department press release, personal and complex questions drove choreography throughout.
Some pieces examine concepts of relationships. A contemporary solo by College junior Isabel Levey-Swain that explores notions of family is accompanied by music created by College senior Alex Wilder, including text from conversations between the choreographer and her grandparents. College junior Rachel Ford dances with her hands tied in like carrying water / in my hands, part of a reprise of her earlier dance amid spindles and edges, in which her dancers are bound to each other with stretchy red fabric.
“Often, I think of dance as a physical metaphor,” Ford said. “We all have things that bind us, whether to ourselves, to others, to the world, to problems, to places. We all all have connections and relationships to those connections. I am exploring facets of these conenctions and figuring out what they mean to me and to my dancers.”
In The Death of Jonathan Kebe, Southern dances with an imaginary character as he reckons with the death of a community member.
“My dance is about how the living struggle to relate to the dead, but it’s not what I’d call a sentimental piece; it’s very much anchored in the living world,” Southern told the Review. “The concept was something I had been playing with for a few weeks, but during a particularly tumultuous period of personal issues, I choreographed about 85 percent of the piece over a two-hour span of time. I find it’s easier for me to create in solitude.”
The rehearsal process for some other pieces wasn’t quite as curtailed. College sophomore Sophia Attebery spent four hours in the studio every week for her trio Tricus, which explores the trope of “crazy” women and femininity.
She first began developing the project this past summer after partaking in a Gaga dance intensive at Mark Morris Dance Group, a renowned Brooklyn-based company led by the highly influential choreographer of the same name. There, her experience watching a group of women perform a Batsheva piece called The Hole became the impetus for Tricus.
“These women were putting their entire heart into the movement and it was so fast and strong that at the end of the piece, their faces were bright red and their hair had fallen out of their buns,” Attebery wrote in an email. “I thought to myself that these ladies looked absolutely crazy in the best way possible. Right when the piece ended all of the women started fixing their hair back to place. Then they would perform the piece again and fix their hair again right after. I thought it was a really funny juxtaposition of crazy effort and trying to look pretty again. From there I decided I wanted to expand on the idea of ‘craziness’ and how it correlates with effort, especially for women.”
Attebery has been developing movement for Tricus since her arrival to campus this fall and auditioned dancers around three weeks into the school year. Though Attebery herself will unexpectedly perform in Tricus at Fall Forward because one of her dancers recently suffered a concussion, this change has not posed a problem. “That added some excitement to the piece last minute,” she said. Next week, Attebery will begin to adapt Tricus for the screen along with some 19 dancers.
College junior Marquis Junior uses stylistic music in his piece Summertime as a reminder of how he first came to dance. According to a press release, the piece draws from the ’90s generation, harnessing a “block party” vibe, while also influenced by ’80s music, the African diaspora and his peers.
College senior Leah Newman’s trifold piece, sections of which weave throughout the setlist, draws on narrative to produce a thoughtful commentary on the physical and mental effects of strength training. Newman will make use of tangible handheld weights in this dance piece with aspects of performance art.
As they prepare to take the stage for their first audience of the weekend, the choreographers will have McAdams, who will leave faculty this winter, to thank for his work on the production.
“Carter is very focused on creating a community of dancers to promote the show in its entirety,” said College first-year Nina Harris, who is both a Fall Forward dancer and Dance department publicity representative. “He believes that the show is strongest when all the pieces come together.”