Flicker Lets Student Art Shine

by / dance (0) in Arts & Sciences /
Lorena Neira ’17 performaing “Hay un Niño en la Calle,” at the Flicker event in the Kevin P. Mahaney ’84 Center for the Arts. (Campus/Rachel Frank)

As the lights went dark in the Middlebury College Dance Theatre on Jan. 30, the audience waited with anticipation to see Flicker light up the space with new works by student dancers, choreographers, poets and artists. A culmination of a J-term project directed by Aoife Duna ’16.5 and Octavio Hingle-Webster ’17, Flicker showcased twelve student pieces ranging from film to spoken word to dance.

For Duna, Flicker began as a dance showcase.

“The production started out with the goal of creating a supportive place for new dancers to explore and create their work,” Duna said.

Though the event was initially intended to highlight only one art form, Flicker rapidly expanded to include various artistic disciplines. During J-term students got together each week to share their progress and critique each other.

“The weekly meetings allowed artists to dig deeper into [their] creative visions,” Duna said.

The evening began with “Artski,” a short cinematographic exploration created by Adeline Cleveland ’13.5 and Sarah Briggs ’14. Stop motion photography allowed the audience to see color swirling onto Cleveland’s and Brigg’s chests and faces as the two danced through landscapes. The film also forayed into the artistic possibilities of skiing as Cleveland and Briggs filmed themselves trailing red fabric and balloons behind them down a ski slope.

Following the short film, Lorena Neira ’17 performed her solo piece, “Hay un Niño en la Calle,” meaning “There is a child in the street.” In her tender portrayal of the vulnerability of a lonely child without a home, Neira clung to a symbol of comfort in the form of a shirt she picked up from the floor and bore on her shoulders. Throughout the performance, Neira probed the emotional possibilities of strength and child-like joy in the face of hardship.

In keeping with Flicker’s goal of providing an outlet for a wide range of artistic endeavors, Victoria Sheffield ’15’s spoken word performance followed Neira’s piece. With a confidently amused expression on her face, Sheffield walked onto the stage in silence, rolling up her shirt as she leaned forward and executed an undulating belly roll. Thus began her tale of confidence and pursuing one’s desires despite setbacks, which brought smiles to the audience.

“The Ways We Gaze,” choreographed and performed by Hingle-Webster and dancers Dave Yedid ’16 and Vladmir Kremenovic ’17, was set to a dance party beat that gave the piece the energy of a night out. The intensity of movement and the dark make-up flourishing the expressions of the dancers matched that energy, as the lyrics of “Sweat (On The Walls)” by John Tejada raised the questions, “What do you think about at night?” and “What is it that brings you here?” The most striking image halfway through the piece was a fierce gaze of the dancers into the audience, each reaching straight ahead with one hand and placing the fingers of the other hand artfully around one eye, as if demanding that the audience respond to the questions.

Celeste Allen’s “All These Bitches Crawl” was a dance and spoken word exploration of the artist’s sexuality and her struggle over time to navigate that part of her identity in a society that pressures and influences the choices one makes about sexual self-expression. The interaction with sexuality was brought into physical form with the use of a chair, which Allen sat on, stood on, overturned and eventually carried with her at the conclusion of the piece. The performance alternated between dance portions in which Allen embodied a sexual character to the sound of well-known songs with sexual themes, and spoken portions when Allen would interact with the chair as a representation of her sexual identity outside of herself. This contrast between a physical self with the music and an emotional self in silence raised the question of who we become when we allow the often degrading messages of popular music to cover our own voices.

“Sunday Roast,” a dance piece about a dysfunctional family dinner, was reminiscent of images of Thanksgiving gatherings gone terribly wrong. Choreographed by Molly Rose-Williams ’14 and performed by Cleveland, Duna, Emily Goins ’17, Neira and Molly Stuart ’15.5, the piece began with an uncomfortable scene around a dinner table with one chair missing, forcing each disgruntled member of the family to squat at different moments during the piece. The situation quickly deteriorated into an animalistic scene of chaos in a well-crafted blend of dance and theater in which the smallest member of the unfortunate family is placed on the table and mock-carved like the very meat the family had been eating before. This less-than-subtle allusion highlighted the ridiculous nature of the victimization of one’s own family members when dinner interactions go awry.

At the only moment in the evening when two pieces directly intermingled, the dinner scene’s dramatic climax was interrupted by the sound of a doorbell, which placed the family back in their seats as two guitarists entered the stage and were greeted by the family. The dancers of “Sunday Roast” soon cleared the stage and left Matt Spitzer ’17 and Auberin to their piece, “Parody of Two Guys Playing Guitar.” The pair performed two lighthearted songs, joking between the pieces that they didn’t know why the audience was laughing.

Breaking from the playful tone of Spitzer and Strickland’s performance, Kremenovic’s “Proshlost” presented a more dramatic tone enhanced by the shadowy blue stage lighting. Kremenovic performed a morning routine, going through the motions of a shower and venturing out into the day with arching leaps and dramatic falls before returning to the beginning of the routine and starting over several times, each more desperate than the last. Eventually Kremenovic broke from the routine and stripped to a a pair of nude briefs, giving the illusion of utterly bare motion. Nearly naked before the audience, Kremenovic’s movement felt free and honestly expressive without the routine motion the clothes symbolically tied him to.

“Night Terrors,” choreographed by Duna, kept the intense tone alive as dancers Goins, Neira, Anna Ready-Campbell ‘14, Veronica Rodriguez ’17.5, Sheffield, Megan Vargas ’17 and Rose-Williams performed a dance of dreams and nightmares. Through the intricate and beautifully executed choreography, the dancers’ depiction of fear triggered a kind of frozen observance from the audience that was unnervingly close to the experience of real nightmares.

Alan Sutton ’15 brought the audience back to reality with his spoken word performance of “Kinky Voices,” in which he brought out a desk and painted his nails while recounting a piece that simultaneously played behind him in video form.

Cameron McKinney ’14 began “This-Worldiness,” which he and visiting faculty member Tiffany Rhynard choreographed, with the shocking initial visual of walking onstage slowly dragging a skeleton attached to his ankle. McKinney’s motion throughout the piece was characteristically precise and intentional, but the most stunning moment in the piece was McKinney’s embodiment of primate-like movement.

The evening of varied artistic endeavors closed with “Opus One,” artistically influenced by Laura Strom ’15 and performed by Middlebury’s tap group On Tap. The joyful tap piece contrasted brightly with the modern dance styles of the other dance pieces and ended Flicker on a high note.

Duna and Hingle-Webster plan to put on future Flicker productions each month of the spring semester.

“We hope to continue creating this space for student-created art and community on campus,” Duna said.

All interested individuals can contact Aoife Duna (aduna@middlebury.edu) or Octavio Hingle-Webster (ohinglewebster@middlebury.edu) for information on those productions.