Luther College Chips

“Soil Turning”

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The performers in “Soil Turning” dance together in the final moments of the performance.

The performers in “Soil Turning” dance together in the final moments of the performance.

Piper Wood (‘21) | Chips

Piper Wood (‘21) | Chips

The performers in “Soil Turning” dance together in the final moments of the performance.

Piper Wood, Staff Writer

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Highlighting personal growth and identity through movement, 14 Luther students opened their performance, “Soil Turning” in the Center for the Arts on Friday, May 4 at 7:30 p.m.

The dance showcase, performed in three separate spaces in the Center for the Arts, is the culmination of a semester of collaborative dance. Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance Andrea Vazquez-Aguirre constructed the piece and facilitated group discussion around the theme of identity.

“The theme for this piece was one of the proposed themes for the [Visual and Performing Arts Department’s] 2017-2018 productions by dance and theatre majors in Professor Dintaman’s production class last academic year,” Vazquez-Aguirre said. “The inspiration for ‘Soil Turning’ is the reflection around the notion of identity.  The following main inquiries guided the process: ‘to what extent do our collective identities — race, nationality, religion, gender, and sexuality — constrain our ability to make an individual life?’ and, ‘To what extent do they enable our individuality?’”

The performance takes place in three separate movements, beginning in the CFA hallway, moving to the Barefoot Studio, and concluding in Jewel Theatre, with the audience literally following the dancers to each performance location.

“‘Soil Turning’ evolves in three different spaces within the CFA,” Vazquez-Aguirre said. “In analogy with ‘Tillage,’ the agricultural preparation of soil by mechanical agitation of various types, such as digging, stirring, and overturning, the audience and dancers move and mix in the different spaces. The text shared by the dancers is personal and connected to the theme.”

The group held auditions at the end of first semester and worked on their performance during class time twice a week. All of the dancers created the choreography for the CFA hallway.

“Each dancer created one movement and put them together to create one long piece of movement,” performer Lindsey Ahlers (‘18) explained. “From there, each dancer has their own aspect of the larger performance. We were instructed to create words and movement that represent our identity. We then created movement that is true to ourselves or true to experiences that we have had that are at the forefront of our identity.”

Performers dance as a whole unit in both the CFA lobby and Jewel Theatre, but work individually and in small groups to tell their stories of personal identity in the Barefoot Studio. Each performance space brought different potential for expression and the students interacted with their surroundings through their movements.

Performer Inga Aleckson (‘18) enjoys the organic expression that flourishes from this performance.

“I hope audience members can see how organic the movement is and how each dancer has been able to indulge in their own way of expressing through movement,” Aleckson said. “It is not all set choreography, move by move, or gesture by gesture. There are a lot of concepts that we are bringing into physical form. I think that this organic movement speaks to the theme of identity and I think that that philosophy can be taken into life as well.”

Vazquez-Aguirre used this philosophy to facilitate group movement in the show and hopes that this idea can inspire the audience to consider their own personal identities.

“I hope that audience members create their own interpretation based on what they hear, see, and feel on a kinesthetic level,” Vazquez-Aguirre said. “The abstract or concrete nature of movement is a powerful tool for communication and imagination.”

Performer Haley Steffen (‘19) uses her solo dance to highlight a personal experience in her life that has shaped her identity and she hopes that this openness will come across to the audience.

“Throughout the whole performance, completely showing my identity to everyone in a new way while I’m dancing has made me more vulnerable,” Steffen said “It’s really easy when you take on a role to fully invest yourself in it, but when it’s actually your own role that you are showing to the audience it brings a whole new element of vulnerability and trust to the performance.”

The dancers also collaborated with Associate Professor of Music and Composer-In-Residence Brooke Joyce’s composition course, who provided the music for the performance.

“Dancers and musicians met throughout the semester to share work in order to inspire one another,” Vazquez-Aguirre said. “The musicians shared their finished pieces and they were appropriate for the emotional tone and kinesthetic energy that the dancers created. It was enriching, stimulating, and inspiring. The work of these student-composers became essential to the movement-text scores.”

Steffen is hoping that “Soil Turning” helps the audience reflect on their own personal identity and understand the lives of those performing.

“I hope people can understand who we are,” Steffen said. “As performers, when you take the stage, you take on some kind of role. Instead of doing that in this piece we are literally showing our own self; we are showing our identity through the show.”

The “Soil Turning” performances continue this week, with a performance Thursday, May 10 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, May 12 at 1:30 p.m.

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