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UH dance program reuses cast-off materials
A young man chugs a beer, flips the can over his shoulder and settles down for a snooze. Nearby, a heap of garbage rustles as if blown by the wind, but soon an eerie, gamelan-like music emerges, and creatures crawl from the pile and begin to dance.
It’s the beginning of “Debris Fantasy,” a dance choreographed by University of Hawaii dance professor Betsy Fisher and the opening number of the UH-Manoa Dance Program’s newest concert “Dancing Greener,” playing the next two weekends at Kennedy Theatre.
“I took the word ‘recycle’ and sort of dropped into the creative hopper of each of the choreographers, directors, designers,” she said. “They did their own pieces with the idea of recycling as a theme. Each one addresses it in a different way.”
The concert will range from a hula choreographed by kumu hula Vicki Holt Takamine that features the way Hawaiians use bamboo, “despite the fact that it’s an invasive species,” and a work called “Greyscale” that will be lit by energy-efficient CFL bulbs. “They’re very bright, very white,” Fisher said. “And it does save a lot of energy.”
Presented by the University of Hawaii-Manoa dance program
Where: Kennedy Theatre, UH-Manoa
When: 8 p.m. today, tomorrow and Feb. 11-12; 2 p.m. Feb. 13
Info: 944-2679, www.hawaii.edu/kennedy/
IF ART can send a message, then the message behind Fisher’s work is that art can come from a mess.
Fisher asked faculty and students to collect trash, and some of it was recycled into a “trash waterfall” that features a set of old pots and pans. Professor Kirstin Pauka, a taiko drummer, will play them like a drum kit.
Costumes are made of cardboard, newspapers and garbage bags. Potato-chip sacks were strung together to create brightly colored skirts reminiscent of sarongs.
“Of course, we had to wash all those out because of the bugs,” Fisher said. “There’s nothing gooey up there.”
UH costume shop manager Hannah Schauer said the designs were inspired by a picture that Fisher sent of a person wearing grocery bags, with the question, “Wouldn’t this be cool if we could keep this on a dancer?”
Her shop has had a lot of trash around since last summer, when the project started. The work was undergoing constant revision and evolution as Fisher and Schauer tried to match movement with costume.
“The big challenge to our shop was in trying to make this stuff stay on,” Schauer said.
Some of the items will remind viewers of how quickly obsolescence occurs in the computer age. Two dancers will dance with CRT monitor cases on their heads, an impossibility with today’s flat screens. UH student Ali Burkhardt will wear a skirt made of discarded 3 1/2-inch computer floppy disks, which make a rustling sound as she twirls.
“It’s a bit uncomfortable,” said Burkhardt, 18. “I remember my parents had a bunch of these lying around.”
The concert also features the theme of renewal in “Re-source,” a new work by Peggy Gaither Adams, and in “Mismatch,” a work by Gregg Lizenbery that examines relationships.
“Dancing Greener” will conclude with a work from modern dance pioneer Murray Louis called “Porcelain Dialogues,” which represents the recycling of an experience for Fisher. She danced with Louis’ company and performed the work at the Kennedy Theatre in 1980.
Fisher managed to obtain the original costumes for this performance, and the services of one of her former colleagues, Janis Brenner, to help restage the dance. Even the lighting, which Fisher said was “very specific” to the work, is being re-created by the original stage manager of the piece.
Fisher obtained a National Endowment for the Arts grant to present the dance, which will be recorded and documented. Only a DVD of grainy video of it has existed until now.
“There’s all these kind of reconnections and kind of recycling of affection that’s gone on in this staging,” Fisher said. “It’s very beautiful and delicate.
“The whole thrust of this concert starts with all this crazy trash, and it just makes its way to this crystalline, lovely, wonderful, warm ‘Porcelain Dialogues.’”
—Steven Mark / email@example.com