A vocabulary of movement

The dancers of Variable Velocity tell their stories through motion in "Voices" program

Special to The TribuneMay 30, 2013 

"Voices” is the title of Variable Velocity Performance Group’s annual dance concert, and it’s the body that is speaking as dancers and choreographers collaborate and create, explained Diana Stanton, associate dance professor and choreographer of the Cal Poly group.

“Dancers use movement the way you use words,” she said. “There’s a movement vocabulary.”

The evening of original works includes pieces by Stanton and Jude Clark Warnisher of Variable Velocity, guest choreographers, and student choreographers that explore the question, “What voice is within us that tells us to move and create?”

Stanton takes a literal approach to the question in her piece, “Free the Captives.” It was inspired by seeing a series of unfinished sculptures by Michelangelo in Italy.

“The raw stone with partial carving was fascinating,” she said. Michelangelo had said that he didn’t impose his work from the outside with a plan, but listened to the voice of the prisoners inside the stone and chipped away to reveal them. The metaphor can be applied to dance as well.

“The body has the impulse to move a certain way. In choreographing, let the movement reveal itself.”

Stanton’s 17-minute-long piece takes the dancers “from stone to fully-formed human beings, and back into stone.”

Clark Warnisher explained that her work, “Other Voices,” comes from a process of improvisation and collaboration with the dancers. As she gets older, she said, she reaffirms her own artistic purpose by working with the bodies and the talents of others, with “other voices letting me know what I want to say.”

The piece includes a monologue and a short video.

Guest artist Wade Madsen teaches at the Cornish School of the Arts in Seattle. He creates and dances “Leaving,” a solo reflecting on the death of his father.

“It’s tender and emotional,” Stanton said.

David Capps, from Hunter College in New York, also presents a moving work, she explained. “Night Flight,” with music by Chopin, is a classical modern piece. Capps had suffered a heart attack, and in the dance he reminisces about being in a place between life and death.

“It’s curious — like a puzzle,” Stanton noted.

Christy McNeil’s “Stop, Collaborate, & Listen” is “very fun and lively, combining hip-hop and techno-urban styles. She’s a jazz dance specialist,” Stanton said. “She takes the movement vocabulary and shapes it as an artist would shape it.”

McNeil, like Stanton, teaches in the Department of Theatre and Dance at Cal Poly, and a number of their students are in this show, as well as in Orchesis, the Cal Poly dance company.

“Echoes,” is choreographed by Horacio Heredia, a dancer and choreographer. Stanton describes it as a classical trio.

“Voices Inside Our Heads,” the opening number by Stanton and Clark Warnisher, is a collaboration with the dancers that is energetic and playful, Stanton said.

“We asked the dancers, ‘What is your mind and body telling you?’ ” The piece, with 14 dancers, including Stanton, was created from their answers. “You build your movement on what you want to express, with a constant sense of reinventing.”

Variable Velocity’s mission is to represent all genres of dance, well crafted, Stanton said. But it is also energetic, athletic and playful. “This is not classroom stuff,” Stanton said.


8 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday
Spanos Theatre, Cal Poly
$20 to $24
756-4849 or www.pacslo.org

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