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Thursday, September 28, 2023


Event Preview: New direction for dance concert

Inspired by everything from a tax-evading billionaire to ethereal dreams and nightmares, Moving Pictures is sure to shed new light on the typical perception of dance and music.

UH ENSEMBLE, the University’s pre-professional performing dance company, and AURA, Moores School of Music’s contemporary ensemble, have joined forces for the annual faculty dance concert, blurring the line between the two media along the way.

"Both of us are dealing with time," AURA Director Rob Smith said. "When I’m writing music, I’m dealing with how I’m going to fill up a stretch of time, when (UH ENSEMBLE Director Teresa Chapman) is writing dance, it’s going to be how you fill up a stretch of time. It’s a completely different medium, but it’s the same thing."

AURA will perform during the first of four presentations of the concert, and both Smith and Chapman said live music adds a different element to the show.

"It’s wonderful in the sense that we don’t always get that opportunity. I wish that we did," Chapman said. "The dancers have to be in tune with each other and you have to really be in tune with the music because it’s not always going to be the same…. I think that for the students it’s a wonderful experience on both sides."

Both UH ENSEMBLE and AURA are comprised of students who audition for the groups. Smith agrees that performing live with dancers is a unique experience for students.

"Live music is much better than canned music. That’s why people, even in today’s day and age where we have these perfect recordings, go to see rock concerts. There’s a human element that you don’t get from a recording," Smith said. "It makes us better at our craft because we have to be much more in tune to our surroundings and we have to be in tune to (the dancers)."

UH ENSEMBLE will perform "A Faint Haze of Dissonance," a new work choreographed by Chapman, to the song "Sweet Air," by David Lang. Chapman incorporated equivalence, a dance technique that transfers words into music, into the piece, visually representing the situation that inspired Lang’s music – his son’s experience with laughing gas at the dentist.

"One of the phrases that (Lang) used in an interview is ‘there’s a faint haze of dissonance,’" Chapman said. "Even though it seems like its kind of sweet and lulling, and there’s a bit of a driving rhythm to it, there’s still some uncomfortableness about it that attracts him."

Chapman conveyed discomfort through movements that seem uncomfortable for dancers.

Chapman will also perform solo in "Shoot from the HIP," inspired by billionaire Yang Bin’s arrest for tax evasion. An interesting play on words, the dance is set to Ross Edwards’ "Binyang," written about the aboriginal bird.

Smith selected a number of songs for Moving Pictures, and composed "Morse Code Pop."

UH ENSEMBLE will perform a portion of the dance "Green," choreographed by the head of the School of Theatre ‘ Dance’s Dance Division, Karen Stokes, to Smith’s piece, and Smith said Stokes’ choreography is an example of how the interaction of dance and music can take both in a new direction.

"You have this aural sensation, but then you’re also getting visual stimulus, and we’re more visual then we are aural, so it’s great to have the combination of the two things," he said. "What ends up happening is that the dance brings out certain things that are in the music that you might not hear otherwise."

Also performing in the concert will be adjunct professor Rebecca Valls, who choreographed "Orange," influenced by a surrealist image, and adjunct professor Toni Leago, who choreographed "Chess," inspired by nightmares and dreams. Jennifer Wood, artistic director of Suchu Dance in Houston, will perform "A Simple Way to go Faster" as a guest choreographer.

AURA and Travesty Dance Group, founded by Stokes, Kimberly Karpanty and Rebecca Malcolm-Naib at Kent State University, will perform in Moving Pictures on April 11. Subsequent performances will not feature the two groups but will include the same music and dances.

Moving Pictures runs at 8 p.m. April 11, 25 and 26 and at 2 p.m. April 27 at the Lyndall Finley Wortham Theatre. Tickets are $7 for students and $15 general admission. For more information, visit

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