Section: Arts

Site-specific choreography stuns at Hammersong Farm

Site-specific choreography stuns at Hammersong Farm

Courtesy of Kora Radella

By Regan Hewitt

Kenyon College and Knox County are intertwined in many ways, most recently through modern dance. Last Saturday, Sept. 13, at Hammer Song Farm, the students in Assistant Professor of Dance Kora Radella’s The Choreographer II class each directed a separate dance piece as part of the 2014 Barn Tour.

The Barn Tour 2014, which was hosted by the Knox County Renaissance Foundation, focused on 25 historic barns in Knox County, including Hammer Song Farm. Although the performances were free, any donations obtained during the tour went to the conservation of the International Order of Odd Fellows building in Mount Vernon.

This process of staging and directing is known as “site-specific choreography,” according to Radella. The choreographers worked on-site to create their works, rather than working in a studio first and transposing the studio choreography to the farm. The performances were meant to interact with the farm as a set rather than a background, using the space as limitation instead of inspiration.

When Radella was approached about doing the site-specific performance by the Barn Tour, she resisted because it was so early in the academic year. However, after making an appointment with Linda and Tom Bland, the owners of Hammer Song Farm, Radella became enthralled with the project. “It was a perfect match,” Radella said. “[Linda] wanted us to be here and was so welcoming.”

The multitude of dancers needed for these performances were pulled from the Intermediate and Advanced Modern dance classes, taught by Professors of Dance Julie Brodie and Balinda Craig-Quijada. The performances started at 1 p.m. and were repeated, looping in 30-minute cycles, until 3 p.m. Each performance had separate dancers, ranging from three to eight dancers per piece.

Tate Glover '16 performs at the Hammer Song Farm.
Tate Glover ’16 performs at the Hammer Song Farm.

Starting in the barn, Kiri Staiger’s ’16 dancers created a juxtaposition between the quixotic nature of dance and the working symbol of the farm. “The barn is so practical … as opposed to a lot of what we do in dance, so I was inspired by that,” Staiger said.

As the audience grew, the dancers from Staiger’s piece led directly into Brianne Presley’s ’16 performance, where the dancers mimicked the cornfield behind them, starting as tiny seeds before growing and waving in the wind, with each dancer mimicking an individual corn stalk.

Next, Pankti Dalal’s ’17 dancers interacted within an alcove of trees, binding humanity and nature into one. Dalal said that she wanted to play on the geometric complications of the tree’s intertwined branches — an observation inspired by her math major — and her dancers successfully managed to weave their way in and out of branches and each other’s bodies.

This unorthodox type of performance provided a new set of challenges to the dancers. “I’m nervous that it won’t be a piece, … that it’ll appear to be unfinished when it actually is,” Dalal said.

However, all the pieces were communicative about their beginnings and ends, and the audiences seemed receptive to that.

Stephan Beavers ’15 choreographed the fourth performance in the cycle. His site was a double-row of trees, which allowed the dancers to move between the rows. This was the most synchronized of all the dances. Though the dancers’ movements weren’t as independent as those in Presley’s piece, Beavers’s dancers still displayed an element of improvisation.

With the ending of Beavers’s piece, the audience then moved to face the farmhouse, where Tate Glover’s ’16 dancers were gathered on the front steps. “I was playing with the ideas of childhood,” Glover, who grew up on a large farm and was inspired by her own experiences of playing out in the open, said. Her dancers engaged in a choreographed and complex game of tag that still retained its fun, as the audience laughed while the dancers ran to avoid being tagged.

When this performance ended, the audience had completed the cycle and the dancers, who generally followed the audience from site to site, returned to the original positions for the start of the next cycle. The audience met each performance, but especially Glover’s, with resounding applause.

 

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