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Locally-inspired “Barn Dance” to bring art to great outdoors

Locally-inspired “Barn Dance” to bring art to great outdoors

By Sarah Lehr

This Friday and Saturday’s “Barn Dance” will eschew the plush seats of the Hill and Bolton in favor of a 200-year-old barn and an open field. Associate Professor of Dance Balinda Craig-Quijada, Elizabeth Furman ’15 and Marty Kezon ’13 choreographed the dance, as part of Rural by Design, the Rural Life Center’s week-long series of events exploring sustainability.

Craig-Quijada hopes that the performance will “cultivate an appreciation for the unknown.” Since the dance will take place in the historic Colwill Barn (19855 New Gambier Road) and its surrounding pasture, one of those unknowns is weather.

The dance will be subject to other environmental whims, as well. “When we were rehearsing, a helicopter flew by,” Furman said. “Maybe a rooster will crow at some point during the performance. These are little things, but they’re part of the experience.” The placement of the audience is similarly meant to feel organic, rather than controlled. Audience members are encouraged to watch from wherever feels natural and to come and go as they please. “No two audience members are going to have the same experience based on their sight-line and other factors, and we’re completely fine with that,” Craig-Quijada said.

The choreographers want the audience to feel connected to the space. “One of the beautiful things about site-specifics is that it makes dance more attainable for everyone,” Furman said. “You’re putting it maybe in a not very familiar place, but you’re doing pedestrian and familiar movements. We’re not coming out here and doing a really technical ballet piece.” The audience will not be separated from the dancers by a stage or curtain, and this too should create a sense of familiarity. “It’s tangible, ナ it’s right in their faces,” Furman said. “They’re, in a way, part of the dance.”

Craig-Quijada echoed this sense of the spectators as part of the performance. “We hope that the audience will kind of meet us halfway,” she said.

The 14 dancers will wear earth-colored jumpsuits. Craig-Quijada said of the costuming, “They’re really functional. They’re workman-like.” At one point in the performance, Craig-Quijada and Associate Professor of Dance Julie Brodie dance a duet. Folk music, including vocals and an acoustic guitar, will accompany the dance. The dance’s choreography is not contingent on the pace and rhythm of the music. Rather, the elements of dance and music are meant to exist independently of each other. “The music is not in service of the dance, which we like,” Craig-Quijada said.

Early on in the process, the choreographers visited the barn and spoke with “Barn Consultant” Pamela Gray about the structure’s past.

“We really wanted to make a dance that was specific to this place, not something that you could move anywhere else,” said Craig-Quijada. In order to capture a sense of the site, the three choreographers incorporated movements like stacking and absorbing, which draw inspiration from the motions of farm work and the growth of crops. They also worked with movements of crumbling and decay, which are meant to reflect the barn’s present state.

Though the barn is only half a mile from campus, students rarely visit. “It’s so close to campus and it feels worlds away,” Craig-Quijada said.

Rural by Design, a project spearheaded by Professor of Sociology Howard Sacks, aims to reinvigorate neglected spaces in Knox County. Though no one currently uses the barn for farming, the Colwill family once fed the workers who built Kenyon College.

“We don’t have cows and hay in here, but we can use it as a performance space,” Craig-Quijada said. “It’s something that’s still alive.”

The performance will run on Friday, April 5 at 4:30 p.m. and Saturday, April 6 at 3:00 p.m. at the Colwill barn, located at 19855 New Gambier Road. Shuttles will depart from the Bookstore 30 minutes prior to performance. Admission is free.

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