Impromptu dance brings postmodern moves to U

Students danced across campus to raise questions about performance.

Kathryn Elliott

Students heading to class on the Campus Connector on Tuesday were startled by a group of dancers with chairs, performing a work inspired by postmodern choreographer David Gordon.

The dancers, students of Ananya Chatterjea, an associate dance professor at the University of Minnesota, were trying to re-create the postmodern idea that performance can happen anywhere âÄî even on a bus.

The students collaborated with Chatterjea on the project, which began at the Barbara Barker Center for Dance. It led them through underground tunnels, across the Washington Avenue Bridge to Coffman Union and back, bubbling over into âÄúhappeningsâÄù âÄî random body movements started by a leader âÄî along the way.

At Coffman, they reconstructed âÄúHuddle,âÄù a work by postmodernist Simone Forti in which performing artists climb on top of one another.
The project elicited a range of responses, Chatterjea said. Some people were shocked, others wanted to join.
Second-year dance major Mette Towley, who participated in the experiment, said she didnâÄôt feel self-conscious or bothered by angry feedback from some.

âÄúWe werenâÄôt disturbing anybodyâÄôs personal space,âÄù Towley said.

Towley said there were differences between the University studentsâÄô experience and that of the avant-garde pioneers who preceded them. For one thing, people who saw them recorded the performance on their cell phones.

If the recordings made it onto social media sites and YouTube, Towley wondered how people would label their contemporary take on postmodern dance.

âÄúHow would someone sitting by the fire in Coffman feel if Mette and I sat cross-legged and played paddy-whack in front of them?âÄù participant Justin Reiter said.

Reiter said the students accomplished their goal of posing such questions about where performance belongs. The âÄúpostmodern dream teamâÄù of dancers and choreographers whom the dance students studied raised similar questions.

âÄúWhat we did today was a testament to postmodern dance,âÄù Towley said.