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UMS Night School: Bodies in Motion – Session 4 Recap

By Sarah Squillante

Editor’s note: This post is a part of a series of by U-M student Sarah Squillante, who’s covering our free UMS Night School: Bodies in Motion series. Learn along side with them.

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Does a discussion of theatre belong in a Night School series devoted to dance? Is there a place for opera, on-stage violence, even music? After Monday’s UMS Night School session, most attendees would probably say that it does.

Host Clare Croft reminded attendees that there are multiple ways to enter a performance. Even in theatre, she said, it’s useful to pay attention to movement and ask ourselves: How are performers using the space? What can we learn about the characters from how they move or stand? She introduced four speakers who offered their personal take on the upcoming performance of Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord’s production of The Suit, directed by Peter Brook.

Naomi Andre, U-M Associate Professor of Women’s Studies, explained the significance of South African opera, reminding participants of dance-like qualities of voice performance. UMS Campus Engagement Specialist, Shannon Fitzsimons, spoke about legendary theatrical director Peter Brook, and touched on his “sense of visual economy” and “commitment to emotional truth,” among other details. UMS Director of Programming, Michael Kondziolka, touched on his skepticism before seeing the performance for the first time and his reasons for selecting the piece. He noted that it is really “telling a story about the movement of bodies.” Finally, Rob Najarian, U-M Assistant Professor of Theatre and former fight/violence director, encouraged attendees to think about the “shared experience” between audience and performer. He led a movement exercise that illustrated the deliberate nature of movement.

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Attendees also had a chance to reflect on the past weekend’s performances of Compagnie Kafig, demonstrating a movement that embodied the show to share with the group; many found that the troupe had an incredible amount of athleticism and humor.

One attendee noted that her experience at the You Can Dance workshop affected her viewing of Compagnie Käfig: “It wasn’t the type of move that makes you go to your friends and say, ‘wow did you see that?’ but I really noticed the intricacy and complexity in movements that seem so simple,” U-M graduate and frequent Night School attendee Sasha Kapshai said.

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Attendee Jane Michener didn’t have plans to see The Suit before the evening, but then changed her mind. “I’m intrigued by all the intricacies of how it’s put together,” she said.

Session 5 of Night School, Body Experiments, will explore ways in which dancers experiment and create new ideas in dance, preparation for Jennifer Monson and DD Dorvillier’s RMW(a)/RMW, and discussion of The Suit. Special guests include: Anita Gonzalez, U-M Professor of Theatre and Drama, Amy Chavasse, U-M Associate Professor of Dance, Larry La Fountain-Stokes, U-M Associate Professor of American Culture, Gillian Eaton, U-M Assistant Professor of Theatre, and Rob Najarian, U-M Assistant Professor of Theatre.

The upcoming weekend is full of dance-related viewing opportunities! Check out the Dance on Camera Festival at the University of Michigan Museum of Art and the UMS performance of Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord: The Suit, 2/19-2/22 at the Power Center.

Session 4 Resources

Interested in even more dance engagement? Pick up an adventure card to learn all about the dance activities we’re offering this year and for a chance to win a backstage meet and greet.

For a complete list of 2013-2014 dance performances, visit ums.org. Share questions, comments, or suggestions in the comments below.