On Thursday, Luca Agunos ’18 was pirouetting underneath the Upside Down Tree. This wasn’t just an impulsive expression on Agunos’ part – it was part of a site-specific dance assignment for Assistant Professor of Dance Kora Radella’s Choreography II class.
Radella said that while she always tries to incorporate site-specific dance assignments into her classes, she has had the opportunity to do more of them this semester. The Visitors in the Gund Gallery provided a perfect setting for a dance assignment outside of Shaffer Dance Studio earlier this semester. Now, taking advantage of Gambier’s short period of good weather, Radella’s class has moved outside.
The assignment came at a perfect time, during Autumn, when Kenyon is at its most beautiful and the weather is quite perfect. Each Choreography II student performed individually at the spot they had chosen. They decided on locations that they often frequented, liked or felt could prove a useful environment for their dance routine.
“I’m a believer in not being in your comfort zone, and site-specific work demands that,” Radella said.
The performances displayed the students’ abilities to incorporate their surroundings into their routines. Catherine Kelly ’19 performed beside the greenhouse, swaying between rocking chairs and leaping across furniture gracefully. Ian Edwards ’17 performed on Middle Path, using the newly placed furniture in his dance, sitting on chairs and tables throughout his piece as if the dance were an everyday routine.
“They learn how to be specific with a site, how to learn from the site versus only imposing their own movements,” Radella said.
The students also performed without music. This may seem odd to dancers and viewers alike, but the lack of audio forced the viewers to focus their full attention on the performers. Without music, the performer and their choreographed movements are the focal point of the performance.
Radella believes students can gain a lot from performing outside the dance studio. “They have to deal with limits and factors that are not on a dance floor,” she said. “They learn to sift through material a little more efficiently because of the limits of the site.”
The students danced their routines with ease, drifting through their rehearsed steps as though they were merely dancing on a whim. The performances appeared very relaxed, yet very elegant. If there was any challenge in their performances or their environment, the students did not let on, as each individual performed as if doing so were as simple as performing on a stage.
As they danced, the leaves filled the trees and covered the ground in bright colors. The beautiful surroundings complemented the dancers as they swept through the fresh, fall air with each leap and jump, and the viewers were made aware of both the beauty of Kenyon and the immense talent present on campus.
“We’re in a particularly beautiful environment, so I view it as part of my job to wake up my students, to get them to be more alive,” Radella said.