DancEnsemble show channels unlikely inspiration

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Capturing movement in a sculpture is a difficult undertaking, but an upcoming BYU dance production will explore what would happen if a statue was able to continue moving.

The BYU Department of Dance, contemporary division, will present “Transformations” this weekend. The entirely new production from dancEnsemble will be performed in the Dance Studio Theatre, room 166 of the Richards Building, this weekend.

Students from BYU’s dancEnsemble visited Frank Lloyd Wright’s School of Architecture this summer seeking inspiration for this fall’s first-ever themed dance concert. The student-dancers and faculty advisers studied the sculptures of Heloise Crista, a resident artist at Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s desert campus, to gather ideas for a dance show centered on Crista’s artwork.

Pam Musil, associate professor and artistic director of danceEnsemble, has spent 19 years in the BYU department of dance and traveled with the students to the desert compound in Scottsdale, Ariz.

“Crista’s sculptures have recurring themes that address the meaning of life, existence, our relationship to deity and to the universe,” Musil said. “As dancers, we have tried to find ways to express some of these same themes and ideas that Crista has explored through her culture; we have just done it through a different medium of motion.”

The dances in the program are based on Crista’s sculptures of human forms in motion. While in Arizona, the group had the opportunity to spend time with and learn from Crista herself. She instructed the students not to simply recreate her work, but to follow their inspiration.

Unlike most dance productions, the choreography was completed before it was set to music. Once the student choreographers completed their work, they collaborated with student composers to create new music to go along with the original dances.

Kamarie Fernandes, a senior from Aurora, Colo., said the team’s hard work will pay off this weekend when Crista attends the concert.

“Everybody has been good about working together,” Fernandes said. “Not only with the musicians but with the dancers. Since it has been such a different experience everyone has been very gung-ho about trying to figure out how to make it work.”

Students like Rachelle Baker, a dance education major from South Jordan, had the difficult task of creating a unique dance and musical composition with the help of her peers.

“The key to creating a choreographic work based on a single sculpture is to really discover the essence of the piece,” Baker said. “We have learned to be open and willing to state our opinion, find value in what the other person sees and then compromise on our artistic views.”

Rachel Robbins, an art major at Utah Valley University, said she admires members of danceEnsemble for their creativity.

“As an art major, I understand how to make a sculpture or painting,” Robbins said. “But making a dance based off a piece of art, I’m clueless. I danced for 11 years and can’t imagine choreographing a dance based off one of my sculptures.”

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