OGDEN — Students in three artistic disciplines at Weber State University are joining forces to present a dance program this week.
Orchesis Dance Theatre’s 2018 fall concert, “FORM,” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday in the Browning Center’s Allred Theater on campus.
Directed by Amanda Sowerby, a professor of dance and the associate dean of the College of Arts and Humanities at the university, the program will combine the talents of students and faculty in the dance, music and visual arts disciplines. Collaborating with Sowerby on the project is Jason Manley, an associate professor of art and head of the sculpture program in the department of visual art and design; and Carey Campbell, associate professor of music.
“‘FORM’ is not about anything in a narrative way,” Sowerby told the Standard-Examiner. “We’re really looking at our art forms — dance, visual arts and music — and purely creating art for art’s sake. It’s a wonderful, creative exploration, exploring how our art forms interact, contrast and occupy the same space.”
The program will begin with a dance titled “FORM,” performed by Moving Company, the student-course dance program at the university. Dancers will be accompanied by an original musical composition written and performed by Campbell, as well as joined onstage by sculptures created by the WSU Sculpting 1 class.
Sowerby said she reached out to Manley and Campbell last year about a collaborative piece.
“There is a long history in dance of collaboration with other art forms,” Sowerby explained.
Manley’s students have created a number of metal and fabric sculptures — some that will hang above the stage — that the dancers will interact with.
“The sculpture students have done a wonderful job of creating sculptures that dancers can play with and move and manipulate,” Sowerby said. “It’s been really fascinating as we’ve watched the dance progress, how they’ve imagined and created sculptures that move kinetically.”
Bringing those two together is electronic music, some of which is pre-recorded but is also improvised on electronics and computers as the dance progresses. That improvisational nature cuts across the entire presentation.
“There is a bit of improvisational collaboration happening in the midst of the performance,” Soweryby said. “The students are having such an exciting time getting to respond in the moment while creating.”
Sowerby said there is a basic structure to the dance, but the dance students also have an opportunity for some improvisation in the moment.
“Because we do have a structure, there are stepping stones or a scaffold that remains the same,” she said. “But in the transitions to each of those stepping stones there are free choices in the way the students navigate to them. They hit the stepping stones, but how they reach them offers some creative freedom.”
Other dance pieces on the evening’s program will include “We’re Not Experts, but We’re Here Anyway” and “Define Me,” dance choreography practicums from two students; and “Fixation” and “So, Who Moved the Exit?” which are guest artist pieces by adjunct professors Emily Bokinskie and Michael Hamblin.
Sowerby said she’s attracted to the way the discipline of dance combines athleticism with aesthetic.
“I’ve always been fascinated by the athleticism that’s woven into dance. The human body is this incredible machine — the control, strength and discipline are similar to athletes,” she said. “Then you layer on creativity and expression … over the physicality of dance, and it offers beautiful ways of watching human creativity.”
Sowerby also points to the deep-seated tradition of dance here in Utah, a tradition that covers everything from modern to ballet to folk. Since early pioneer days, there’s been a love and support of the arts in this state — including dance, according to Sowerby.
“As you may or may not know, Utahns love dance,” she said. “I’m not from Utah, and I’m always amazed and impressed by the love of dance here — it’s unusual compared to other places I’ve lived.”