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When Modern Meets Ballet

‘Breakthrough’: A Breakout Performance by the Kinaesthetics Lab

By Sonja Sharpe

Staff Writer


Kinaesthetics Lab

Kresge Little Theater

Feb. 27-28, 8 p.m.

Fans of both ballet and modern dance found something to like in “Breakthrough,” the first performance of a new choreography group at MIT, called Kinaesthetics Lab, a student group with the goal of studying the process of creating dance. The students participating in the Lab hope to raise public awareness of dance as an art form and to promote support for the serious pursuit of choreography at MIT. This past week, the Kinaesthetics Lab and Rebecca Rice presented an informal performance of their work, which was intended to highlight the diversity of the creative choreographic process.

Many Kinaesthetics Lab members have studied the basic elements of choreography with Rebecca Rice, who encourages dancers to find their own voice and to create innovative, original works. Having extensively studied Denishawn dance and classical ballet, Ms. Rice possesses a strong foundation in both ballet and modern dance, which she now draws upon for her own technique and choreographic work.

Since 1988, Rice has performed her works throughout the New England area; in addition, she is a teacher of modern dance and choreography at the Boston Ballet School and is currently a faculty member at MIT. The Kinaesthetics Lab resulted as an offshoot of the Tech and Choreography Class that Rice has been teaching here over the past three years.

“At MIT, I’m trying to develop creative thinking with students in the classroom,” states Rice. “You don’t have to be a trained dancer to enjoy the classes and learn a lot from them.”

“Breakthrough” was, in a sense, a release of energy, says Irit Rappley, one of the show’s producers. “We decided to name the show ‘Breakthrough’ because we’ve been working towards this show for a couple of years now, and it is wonderful to finally see it happen. It’s really been in the works for a long time.”

Rappley said that “it is hard to compare the work required for each of the pieces, since choreographed works and improvised works are very different. But feeding ideas off of each other and eventually putting it all together was a lot of fun.”

Collisions Abound in ‘Entropy’

“Breakthrough” highlighted many themes, exploring shape, space, time, abstraction, and improvisation. The third work performed, “Entropy,” was an especially good example of their free style. A purely modern improvisation piece, “Entropy” featured dancers who were releasing their energy by dancing into each other, then dancing together in full contact, almost like dance wrestling, and then breaking apart and winding down.

The show was even enhanced by audience participation. Martin Case, the musician, worked collaboratively with the choreographers to develop original scores for many of the pieces. In particular, “Entropy” included the use of triggers taped to the floor in front of some of the audience members. By pressing the triggers, the audience released a wave of sound that melded together and created some of the music that the performers danced to. It was a wonderfully innovative way to get the audience directly involved in the performance, and it helped to add even more energy to the piece.

“Journi,” the fourth piece to be performed, was a lovely contrast to “Entropy.” The work relied heavily on the graceful, flowing movements of ballet but included a few elements of modern dance as well. This piece explored the energy of a male dancer and a female dancer, each alone at first, but then coming together, demonstrating that the combined energy of two can be greater than each person individually. In this way, the dancers were allowed to explore stability and instability, gravity and antigravity.

Three other pieces also served to demonstrate the wonderful talents of the dancers. In “Tanya Wants to Join the Circus,” the second work of the evening, Tanya Burka ’03 performed her audition piece for Ecole Nationale de Cirque in Montreal, in which she weaved together her multi-faceted background in modern dance, gymnastics, and contortion to create a fun and entertaining piece.