MaDaCol features student choreographers

On the weekend of Nov. 30, the Department of Dance presented the Fall Mather Dance Collective (MaDaCol), a series of performances by a group of over 50 dancers. The program premiered works by second-year graduate students Xiaomeng Zhao and Yizhen Hu, as well as Master of Fine Arts alumna Dani Dowler.

MaDaCol is one of Case Western Reserve University’s oldest student organizations, and includes participation from undergraduate and graduate students, faculty members, staff members and dancers from the Cleveland area. This year’s pieces were titled “Perpetual Motions,” “In Water” and “Light Finds Us.”

Zhao’s “Perpetual Motions” depicted a ticking clock, and manipulated choreography in a way that portrayed the dancers as its elements, moving in sync at specified intervals. The dancers precisely moved in the proximity of their space while remaining “steady and well aligned,” as Zhao’s poem describes. A ticking sound echoed in the room, maintaining consistency while the performers moved about.

In her poem, Zhao characterizes a clock as “the spring of time. The hands are chasing the day and night … We can turn the clock hands, we cannot touch the time. The time itself will continue its flow.” The preciseness of the dancer’s movements combined with auditory aids pronounced the clock metaphor, and made for a beautiful illustration of the artist’s poetry.

Hu’s “In Water” also depicted types of movement through spatial metaphor. Aquatic navigation patterns were performed by dancers resembling fish, who were dressed in loose-flowing attire. Their graceful movements and interactions portrayed navigation, individually or in small groups, through streams, rivers and oceans.

The piece was incredibly abstract. The motif was not perceived immediately, but the way the dancers’ translucent one-piece uniforms cascaded was a coherent embodiment of movement through water. Their interactions also supported the theme, bobbing their heads at one another and placing less emphasis on their limbs in comparison to the other MaDaCol pieces.

“Light Finds Us” was perhaps the most exciting of the three, creating a sense of jubilation through the performers’ movement and engagement. Dowler’s choreography was inspired by artist Lisa Snellings’s visual and literary work, and the performers moved succinctly to music composed by Mark Summer.

The dancers involved in “Light Finds Us” used exaggerated facial expressions and boundless movements in a way that transferred over to the audience, emulating the physical connections Dowler intended to demonstrate through her translations of Snellings’ work.

The contrast between the pieces’ musical accompaniments and visual presentations made for a flavorful lineup, and culminated in a very thoughtful and enjoyable evening.