Newcomb Dance Company to deliver fall show ‘Landscape Stories’

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Dancers perform in “Rig”

David Preda, Online Arcade Editor

The Newcomb Dance Company’s fall show, “Landscape Stories,” using its unique set as inspiration, opens Oct. 14.

“It’s a collaborative project,” Alice Pascal Escher, choreographer of “Rig,” said. “The six choreographers got together with the designers last spring and all through the summer to design a place where we were dancing. We finally came up with this landscape that we took inspiration from.”

The set immediately grabs attention in the small Lupin Theatre. In the center of the stage, a platform stands about 7 feet tall. A metal arm, devised to look rusted, connects the platform to a frame of metal that seemingly draws inspiration from cubism paintings. The walls of the performance area are lined with green plastic mesh that add color, as well as a textural element.

“My piece is called ‘Rig,’” Pascal Escher said. “We’re on top of the rig working and under the rig is [water].”

Pascal Escher’s vision shines in her choreography. Dancers spin and weave their ways through the structure, ending the piece as a formed sea anemone. The beginning of the piece focuses on the top of the raised platform, where three dancers perform until dropping below. While the movements on top of the rig are more structured, below is a series of waves and curls, echoing the movements of both sea creatures and water.

To prepare for the show, the 20 dancers selected by audition attend a daily technique class focused on ballet and modern styles. Rehearsals started at the beginning of September, to allow the dancers to perfect the choreographed moves and work with the set.

“We had to come up with different ways to use the structure that didn’t look like we were using it because it was there, but it was actually helping the piece,” said freshman Dinika Singh, one of the dancers in “Rig.”

For the dancers, the structure was not the only challenge for the show. The performance area of the Lupin Theatre is not a traditional stage. A semi-circle of risers mark the perimeter of the audience area, creating an abstract polygon that is mostly taken up by the structure. This setup allows the audience to see performers from multiple angles and vantage points that are not usually available for more traditional dance performances.

Each choreographer had to ensure every audience member would be able to enjoy and understand the story behind each piece regardless of perspective. The one factor that remains the same for performance-goers and performers alike is the music, commissioned by Brendan Connelly.

“[The music] all started to talk to the set, with it not being representative of anything, but suggestive of a mechanical structure,” Connelly said. “Every choreographer is using it differently, so it’s all very malleable. I’m trying to be malleable, but create some kind of continuity within the whole evening.”

The continuous aspect of the show will be the live upright bass player on stage with the dancers. The bass playing style changes with each piece.

“[‘Rig’] is the most it sounds like a jazz bass,” Connelly said. “In most of the other pieces, though, it doesn’t sound anything like that. Alice said, ‘we need rhythmic and bouncy.’ I ran with that.”

Each aspect of the show combines an individual point of view based on what the six choreographers envisioned. The point of the show is not to tell a complete story, but to draw attention to the structure and the setting.

“When I came in, to me it looked like an oil rig,” Pascal Escher said. “It’s just the visual imagery I was working with. The other five pieces are very different, and that’s what’s fun about it. There are six unique stories — six points of view — about what this environment is.”

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