May I Have This Dance?

“Then I offer my waiting self to the One who’s never stopped believing in me, and the dance begins.” – Joyce Rupp

When most people think of “dance,” they usually think of A) people (typically young women) presenting athletic, skilled awesomeness to music on a stage, or B) raucous parties packed with bodies jumping joyfully to a DJ driven beat so loud it is felt.

But there’s another option out there, one with its foundation in the mists of time and refined in the ballrooms of the 19th century: English Country Dances and Contra dancing. Picture a dance scene from Jane Austen, or the Fezziwig dance in “A Christmas Carol” – that’s what I’m talking about. Believe it or not, these dances still happen in quiet communities across the United States.

Many years ago, jaded by the inflated, insecure egos of concert dance (see “A” above) and too weary for “B,” I’d essentially given up on dance, until I experienced “Contra dancing.” It was an unexpected evening of joy, invigorated by a sense of community. For a few hours, I danced without fear of judgement or expectation. I went home with a face weary from smiling and feet weary from moving, having re-discovered why I loved to dance. Friends, music, rhythm and pattern – the dances may feel weirdly “old-timey,” but that truth lends to them a nostalgic calm and ease that is surprisingly charming and fun.

Because of their historical significance, and for the last 34 years, English Country Dance/ Contra dance “Balles” have been incorporated in the Historical Social Dance class. This year, with my retirement, the last Balle offered under my purview happens this week.

THIS FRIDAY, YOU HAVE THE CHANCE TO TRY THESE DANCES AT 

THE SPRING BALLE

Friday March 29, 2019, Maas Auditorium, 7-10pm

OPEN TO THE HOPE COMMUNITY

FREE

Refreshments provided.

Glen Morningstar calling, Mark Schrock and friends providing live music

NO EXPERIENCE IS NECESSARY: All you need to bring is a willing heart and an open mind

DANCES ARE TAUGHT: Experienced dancers will help you, if you wish.

Costumes encouraged, but not required

For more information call: 616-395-7700

Elemental Dance 45

Wind. Water. Fire. Earth. Dance!

The elements get physical this March in Dance 45, the annual presentation of dance works choreographed and designed by Hope dance faculty and guest artists. This concert is always a highlight for the department as it culminates an intense rehearsal process for more than 50 student performers that participate each year. An additional 20 students make up the backstage crews, assisting with lighting, sound, costuming and stage management.

In the dance department, the concert itself, when speaking generally, is affectionately called Dance X, but the actual number is significant. This year it represents 45 years of the dance department going strong, educating, training and cultivating the creativity of young artists, all while maintaining the highest level of artistry for the stage.

Choreography is the dance department’s primary means of scholarship, so the works produced are the artistic equivalence of scholarly publication. Whether producing locally, nationally or internationally, each choreographer spends countless hours in research and rehearsal.

With a throughline response to the elements of wind, water, fire and earth, the subject matter of individual works ranges from lighthearted to contemplative, from carefree communal celebration to mourning, oppression and suffering.

In 2013, the dance department began the practice of hiring an esteemed, professional artist-educator to offer peer review for Dance X. Reviewing this year’s concert will be Paul Abrahamson, director of the Chicago Ballet Center. Abrahamson will evaluate choreography based not only on its compositional design and overall statement (use of space, dynamic range, creativity and integrity of the movement), but also on how the work itself compares to other works presented inside and outside of academia.

Right up until opening night of Dance 45 on Friday, March 1, choreographers and performers continue working. With a throughline response to the elements of wind, water, fire and earth, the subject matter of individual works ranges from lighthearted to contemplative, from carefree communal celebration to mourning, oppression and suffering. Each work falls within the styles of ballet, hip hop, jazz and contemporary, and each is as different as the choreographers creating them. This year’s choreographers include faculty members Nicole Flinn, Crystal Frazier, Linda Graham, Julie Powell and Angela Yetzke, along with guest artists Richard Rivera (NY) and Sharon Wong (FL).

And as always, Dance X (45) attenders should expect exciting surprises from concert designers Erik Alberg and Darlene Veenstra. (Hint: Better bring your umbrella if you sit in the front row!)

Finally, this year’s concert will be a special one, the last hurrah of beloved faculty member and former department chair Linda Graham who heads into retirement in May. Graham will present Chair Study, a crowd favorite first seen in 1989. Dancers will contemplate the element of wood through crazy stunts and thought-provoking humanity in signature Linda Graham style.

So, come celebrate with us. Let’s dance.

Tickets to Dance 45 can be purchased online, in person at the Hope College Ticket Office, or at the door on the evening of the performances. Adult tickets are $10, seniors $7, and children $5.