Get up and jump around

“Serious Fun” showcases the amazing escapades of four choreographers.

by Greg Corradini

Dragonflies can have sex in mid air. Bullfrogs can leap nine times the length of their bodies. Humans, those boring bipeds, were robbed of this acrobatic prowess.

Yet fear not, denizens of academia. In the University dance department’s production “Serious Fun,” a new species of student pirouettes among the pen pushers. And they make it very clear that the laws of nature, and those outside of it, too, are theirs to adjudicate.

“Serious Fun” is the formal showcase of four choreographed pieces. The Cowles artists, Doug Elkins, Paul Taylor, Scott Rink and Shawn McConneloug, spent many weeks this semester working with University students on new and restaged choreographies. The raw frameworks of these dances were presented earlier this fall at various informal showings.

“When you do the informal showings, the piece is so fresh,” said Mariah Meyer, a University senior majoring in dance and psychology. “The (showings) give you an insight into the process of creating a dance, so you can really see how the piece evolves. It’s a chance to just get the dance out there, perform it and let anybody see it.”

Now anybody can see it, honed to every last thrust and kick, with all the theatrical icing.

Or hear it.

Twin Cities choreographer Shawn McConneloug interweaves dialogue and grunting into her piece, “Corporeal Mortification.”

Liz Wawrzonek, a dance and English literature senior, said she shares a keen interest with McConneloug in how different mediums intersect with dance. “This is why I love Shawn’s work so much, because she uses a lot of film, acting and theatrical devices and yet it’s still very physical,” Wawrzonek said.

In “Corporeal Mortification” the rigor of Catholic morals suppresses the burgeoning sexuality of schoolgirls. Their frustration and angst manifests itself into a number of feisty movements. Such as the scene in which the girls writhe on the ground like grubs, attempting to get into their plaid school uniforms. McConneloug had the dancers drudge up memories of childhood to help assimilate them into their characterizations.

“We started from the very first day imagining ourselves as children,” Wawrzonek said. “We drew pictures, we wrote stories. There was a lot of time spent goofing around and talking about the different hairstyles that we wore.”

In another scene, the girls line their chairs up in a row. They sit down and go through the motions of the sign of the cross. But their movements become borderline sadistic and their cheek-turning meekness is discarded for a lewd physicality.

“It’s a cross between punishment and pleasure,” Wawrzonek said, emphasizing the role that physicality aided in her understanding of character. “It was a physicalization of my character rather than using only words. They are characters and they are constructions, but they all come from people we used to be and still are.”

Ben Rasmussen, a senior dance student, indicated that in addition to dance instruction, choreographers such as Scott Rink spent time during the workshop discussing the piece with dancers. Working with Rink taught Rasmussen “to take the time to be articulate with your body and words in what you are creating visually and auditorily,” he said.

Rink builds his piece off a short story by Dorothy Parker. Viewers are placed in the middle of bickering newlyweds. The wife has reservations about everyone’s compulsion to marry. The husband seems to despise his buttercup’s stylish cloche hat.

Parker’s story exposes the fear and doubt of a couple beginning their life together. While Rob Leadley and Meyer read the dialogue, Rasmussen and Eva Mohn dance out the territory of reconciliation and maliciousness. At times, the dance and text fall into synchronization. “The text is so tightly woven to the dancing,” said Meyer, who narrates the wife. “We would be nothing without the dancers and the dance wouldn’t have half the punch and meaning it does without the text.”

Unresolved elements of the dispute remain even as Rasmussen carries and twirls Mohn with confidence. Other times, both stand with cocked hips in a pose of disgust and argumentation. What unfolds awkwardly onstage is a struggle towards marital bliss.

Paul Taylor’s piece, “Lost, Found and Lost,” creates its own lyricism with pedestrian movement and space.

“Lost, Found and Lost” plays the dramatic forms of dance against parody, while investigating mundane movements. At one moment, the dancers are slouching pedestrians in a line, impatient and bored. The next, they are melodramatic, fluttering ballerinas.

Bryan Godbout, a theater and dance senior, stressed the importance of Taylor’s piece.

“It is a nice performance quality to take form in everyday life and put that on stage and call it dance. That’s interesting and funny,” Godbout said.

And what dance event would be complete without a little bump and grind? Doug Elkins’ “Brimful of Ashe” pounds out capoeira and hip-hop moves to Punjabi MC’s beats, with a sexual fervor.