Dance The Daily Iowan

Dance Gala Sashays into Hancher

The Dance Department’s Dance Gala is a diverse and vibrant set of compositions that produces a multitude of dance styles and meanings.

Previously Published as an extended print version in THE DAILY IOWAN on November 9, 2017.
Image Credit: David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan


Written By Rhiana Chickering

There are stories of reality told in per-formances that are so utterly flawless it appears to be a dream that is met with in-tricate details, wonderment of surprises, and diverse dance styles. Dance Gala turns aspects of society into something peaceful — something beautiful — that places a person in a world of wonderment.

The choreography in the gala brings the audience into different worlds, different cultures, timely issues, and diverse artis-tic expressions — making the gala both thought-provoking and vibrant.

Turning aspects of society into something peaceful — something beautiful — is what the University of Iowa Dance Department embraces in its artwork and compositions. This shines through in its annual Dance Gala.

Friday and Saturday evening, choreog-raphers and dancers will turn their visions into reality when they perform during Dance Gala at Hancher for the first time since the 2008 flood, which is tremendously exciting for the dancers and choreogra-phers and seems to have inspired them to push the limits of their art.

“[We] focus on movement for the sake of being present and doing something that is intriguing to the human eyes, not using words to explain — just the movement itself,” said choreographer and Professor Armando Duarte.

“The concert is composed of works that are quite varied in terms of their style,” said artistic director/choreographer Professor Charlotte Adams. “We have this intermedia piece that will be very different, and we have two contemporary ballet pieces — one that’s a bit more traditional for audiences, and one that’s less traditional, but they’re both contemporary ballet pieces.”

Adams’ choreographed piece, “Kansas No More,” is a multimedia work in which live dancers interact with video dancers, choreographed by Adams in collaboration with digital-media designer Assistant Professor Daniel Fine.

Related Article: Digital Media Takes the Stage at Dance Gala 2017

This year’s program also includes a piece by guest choreographer Monica Bill Barnes, the founder of Monica Barnes & Company in New York City. Barnes created an original work for the University of Iowa’s dance students. The piece, “leave it on the field,” which is athletic in nature, incorporates popular music along with a great sense of humor.

Choreographer Duarte’s piece “Canções de Zunido e Rosas” (Songs of Whistling and Roses), encompasses Brazilian culture with beautiful surprises throughout the piece.

“I particularly chose pieces that come from the drylands of Brazil,” Duarte said. “[I focused on] the inlands, where it does not rain often. [It is] a mix of storytelling of daily activities [and] spiritual hoping for rainfall.”

Duarte’s piece is largely based on immigration, emphasizing that everyone in this country, except for Native Americans, came from a country other than the United States.

The program also addresses several societal and environmental concerns, including climate change and inequality.

“We cannot be silent about the events that are happening in society, but let’s create something positive to make people aware,” said choreographer Eloy Barragán. “For my piece, I want people to see it — to be aware that [this] is what is happening — awareness of all the social injustice and abuse that is happening.”

Barragán’s piece, “Interior Solitude,” is based on the life of Camille Claudel, a French sculptor who formed stone materials into artistic expression of fear and the unknown.

“Interior Solitude” ex-presses the emotions concerning gender and racial inequality in addition to psychological abuse.

“The difference between men and women is alarming,” Barragán said. “I feel, as humans, we have not learned from history and humanity.”

Playwright, poet, actor, director Xavier Villanova wrote a play for Barragán’s “Internal Solitude.” The play’s text will be integrated into the dialogue.

Everything in Barragán’s piece forms a dialogue — the text, music, dancing, and even the power of stillness.

This diversity in dance styles is what makes this year’s Dance Gala unique.

“There really is a big range [of dance styles], from movement-based pieces to more theatrical [pieces that are] relatable at a more human, pedestrian level,” said dancer and M.F.A. student Bethany Miller. “Each piece has its own vibrancy.”

Most importantly, the choreographers and dancers are exceptionally passionate about what they do, and this passion is shown throughout the pieces.

“[I like] to see the passion of all the dancers on stage, because we all love this, and this is what we live for and to experience it ourselves … we can’t get any better than that,” said Christine Howe, a dancer and M.F.A. student.

For M.F.A. student and dancer Abbey Carlos, the opportunity to interact with people from all over the department is a reward in itself.

“It’s nice to work with [all of these] different people … I love that I get to work with different faculty [and] different dancers and [to] just learn from everyone,” she said. “Working with different people challenges me.”

However, if you are not keen on dance knowledge, that does not matter, stresses Arianna Russ, the soloist in Duarte’s piece.

“You don’t have to be really well-versed in dance to understand or enjoy what Dance Gala has to offer,” Russ said. “If you don’t fully understand what a piece means, that’s OK.

I think a lot of times people who aren’t dancers get a little intimidated by dance. [It’s] abstract movement in particular tends to be a little daunting, and I don’t think it needs to be, because people can take what they want from a performance and enjoy it for whatever they choose to enjoy it for.”

Dance Gala will accentuate current cultural, societal, and environmental beliefs in a creative, beautiful manner.

“What a better way to re-flect [on] it through art in a very peaceful way,” Barragán said.

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