SPENCER BIBLE, Arts & Entertainment Editor
As I entered through the backdoor of Neese Theater, a sign in bold typeface told me take off my shoes. As I unlaced my boots students hurried by, smiling. I walked down a hall and ducked in backstage. It was pitch black, but even without any light I could see silhouettes moving with purpose. I poked my head out and stole a look on stage. Lilly Watkins ’12 was sitting on a wooden bench, swinging her feet absentmindedly. On the floor next to her, Kei Ishi ’12 reclined with gentle posture. I turned to survey the crowd. The theater seemed empty, until a sudden shock of laughter filled the room. When I looked back, there were five dancers, three having appeared in the spotlight too fast for me to see.
Chelonia, Beloit College’s winter dance showcase, opens this week, with showings on Feb 2, 3, and 4 at 8 p.m., and a matinee on Feb 5 at 2 p.m. Tickets can be bought through the Neese box office, and are priced at $4 for students, $5 for faculty and $8.50 for non-college affiliates. The performance is a combination of student and instructor work, and will include pieces first introduced at the December Dance Workshop. Some of the choreography will represent Beloit at the American College Dance Festival Association’s spring conference, which the department attends annually.
I snuck upstairs and took a seat on the opposite side of the theater. With only thirty-seven people in the room—a mob of dancers, techs and two professors—most of the seats were empty. The theater gave off an informal feeling. Dancers sitting in the audience laughed and joked with the performers as kinks were worked out of lighting and music cues. I noticed the clothing; almost everyone wore some combination of sweatpants, ripped t-shirts, spandex and legwarmers. There wasn’t a pair of shoes in sight. Navigating a theater surrounded by dancers, I felt supremely uncoordinated, clumsily hopping over seats and stepping on armrests.
The lights lowered and everyone quieted down. Although it was only a rehearsal, the dancers picked up and wove between one another with subtle and unconscious grace. Without costumes or the feel of a recital it made their skill all the more visible. Feet sliding across the floor and rhythmic breath occasionally drowned out the dim music. Structures were created as individuals simultaneously supported and gave weight to a partner, paused, and then fell back into movement. For dancers, each minute of performance, is matched one hour of rehearsal a week, which explains the steady foot traffic flowing to and from the Hendricks Center. The crowd at stage left watched dutifully, this being the first chance to see their friends’ dances en masse.
Sitting alone on the other side of the room, I was struck by what a community the dance department seems to be. Stray articles of clothing and interspersed backpacks and laptop chargers made the aisles look like a collegiate refugee camp. On the sides of the stage, dancers warmed up together, chatting about the next piece to come.
Claire Alrich’s ’13 piece Blue Moon—a lingering, dazed soiree, inspired by the feeling of being alone in a group—catches the eye and ear with its composition. “I wanted to do a something with a lot of people,” Alrich said. She pointed to the stage, “this is a really unique space for dance. I was thinking about that as I choreographed. There’s a long way to look up.” Alrich will perform in Chelonia before leaving to study abroad in Argentina.
Mira Treatman’s ’12 Seven Minutes of Heaven, “makes you feel something,” says Toby Walters ‘14. Much of the audience was laughing throughout the performance. Treatman—a Theater Direction and Dance double major—performed the piece in Philadelphia as a duet, but expanded it to six for Beloit. “I like playing with the stigma of self-reflexive sexuality,” Treatman says. She says the laughter “is desired” and that it facilitates “an awakening to seeing something in another context and being okay with it.” Watching the piece again in rehearsal, I enjoyed it even more the second time. The cast changed from the last performance. Much of the particulars are left up to the dancers. Treatman calls it “structured improvisation.”
“This week everyone gets pretty tight,” said Nora Anderson ‘13, who was helping a friend by sitting in to direct her piece. She leaned over to Grace Burghoff ‘13, who held a twenty-some page packet of cues. “I’ve done this for three years. I always bring my homework, but I never do any. Everything here’s so interesting,” said Anderson. In the front row a student practiced a difficult sequence, pushing her head every direction, to an internal tempo.
For dance majors, “every project is a group project,” says Alrich, “If two people don’t show up to rehearsal, we can’t do anything.”
“It’s hyper-collaborative,” Walters chimes in. “You have to able to work together.”
Chelonia is one of the largest showcases for student made art in the academic year. As a campus, we should support the creative endeavors of our peers, and attend events that highlight the abilities of our community.