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Dancing from piano to forte

Posted By flradmin On April 27, 2011 @ 12:01 AM In On The Town | Comments Disabled

Choreographers’ showcase brings out the contemporary side of Northern Plains Dance


Lauren Theurer portrays the caretaker in “The Family,” the final part of the contemporary dance “Philoteknos de Kakopatheia” by guest choreographer David Gensheimer.

Story by Cathryn Sprynczynatyk

Ballet pervades Northern Plains Dance’s season. “Nutcracker,” the Christmas mainstay, anchors the winter. The spring ballet sticks close to the toe shoes, but branches out and features the occasional hip hop class as the Lost Boys in “Peter Pan” or the Queen’s playing cards in “Alice in Wonderland.” The annual choreographers’ showcase is when Northern Plains Dance [2] truly breaks form. The choreography is more daring. The dancers are more mature.

“The point of the (choreographers’ showcase) is to do a little bit more daring work, so it’s not quite as standard or traditional and ballet based like the ‘Nutcracker,’” said Hollis Mackintosh, director of Northern Plains Dance. “The kids train for other dance styles as well. It’s an opportunity for them to show what they can do. It’s really important not just for the kids but for the Bismarck area to see things that aren’t as traditional, but sort of avant-garde.”

Piano to Forte, the 2011 choreographers’ showcase, incorporated live piano music and artwork by local visual artists. The event, which featured four contemporary dances and one ballet, was performed Feb. 26 – 27 at the Belle Mehus Auditorium in Bismarck.

According to Mackintosh, contemporary dance can serve as an outlet for a choreographer to work out some personal experience. For guest choreographer David Gensheimer, creating the dance “Philoteknos de Kakopatheia” was an opportunity to process his experiences volunteering in Haiti last year.

Following the 2010 earthquake, Gensheimer assisted with medical relief in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Gensheimer said he felt more love and encouragement from the Haitians than he could hope to return.

“Such a horrible situation happened, but the people — even through that time — found joy and found love in each other and that support and encouragement in each other,” Gensheimer said.

The contemporary dance “Philoteknos de Kakopatheia,” which means “love and suffering” in Greek, came out of that experience.
“The idea behind the piece was that in a tragic situation when something happens to us, something horrible happens, how do we react?” Gensheimer said. “Do we lean upon each other in love? How do we support and encourage each other?

“We have to walk that walk together, and we can’t do that alone. Ultimately we have to lean upon relationships, whether it be family or friends or maybe even a stranger.”

Gensheimer’s dance is divided into four parts focusing on relationships: “The Relationship,” “The Sisters,” “The Friends” and “The Family.”

“Going through difficult times — whether it be a loss in the family or whether it be a hard time or as bad as a tragic event like Haiti or Hiroshima or 9/11 — we have to be dependent on each other. We can’t be alone. We have to find friendship and love in order to get through.”

According to Mackintosh, the dances at the choreographers’ showcase provide a more mature venue for some of the more mature dancers in the organization.

“(Gensheimer had a) pretty intense idea behind the piece,” Mackintosh said. “I think it’s important for these kids that they learn dance has the power to communicate this sort of stuff in a way that other art forms can’t necessarily.”

Although the Northern Plains Dance event is meant to showcase choreography, it also provided a showcase for the dancers. The lone ballet performed was an act from “Paquita,” the story of a Gypsy girl torn between two lovers. The wedding scene in the ballet has traditionally offered an opportunity for up to nine ballerinas to perform variations, or solos. Mackintosh limited the soloists to seven ballerinas — all of whom needed to be old enough to perform en pointe.

Dancers are usually able to begin training en pointe at age 11 or 12 — after they have undergone a growth spurt. Ballerinas attempting the dance en pointe before the growth spurt risk damaging their foot bones.

“‘Paquita’ has lasted throughout the years as just the wedding scene,” Mackintosh said. “When it is taken out of context, it has become not about a wedding at all. It’s about a Spanish dance style.”

Northern Plains Dance will be back to ballet soon with the spring production of “Snow White,” May 20-21 at the Belle Mehus Auditorium in Bismarck.

Between Spanish dance, ballet and contemporary, “Piano to Forte” offered the choreographers and dancers of Northern Plains Dance ample opportunity to showcase their skills, talents and artistry.

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[1] Image: http://finelivingreview.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/PianoToForte11-3.jpg

[2] Northern Plains Dance: http://www.northernplainsdance.org/

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