Two people. A bare stage. And string.
One man and one women emerge from the darkness into the spotlight of the University Theatre. The pair are dancers, pulling and tugging against strands of string, falling into, and yet away from each other at the same time. The light fades and all that is left is a body, lying on the floor, weeping in anguish and sadness.
Lamar University’s department of theatre and dance will present its spring dance show, ‘Dance Unleashed,’ Friday through Sunday.
The performance will include seven pieces and features the Lamar dance team and choreographed work from the professors in the dance department, as well as student dancers and choreographers.
Travis Prokop, a dance professor and choreographer, said this year’s performance has a huge variety — from aerial, tap and swing, to contemporary and postmodern work.
“The first piece we have is an aerial solo by Rebecca Gonzalez,” Prokop said. “(The routine) is to ‘Man of la Mancha.’ It’s very Spanish inspired — we’re trying to go a little higher tempo with the aerials this year as opposed to last year. Our second piece is by Lamar University’s dance team. I expect some technique and some nice commitment from them. After that, we have our student work.”
The student work section was chosen from different groups in Prokop’s applied choreography class. Katelyn Kirk and Shaudae Leftwich combined on a dance.
“Our piece this year is called ‘No String Attached,’” Kirk said. “It’s open for interpretation, but in my opinion it kind of plays with the idea of a romantic relationship, or any relationship, and how there is always strings attached in some way.”
The pair manipulated the ideas of aerials and contemporary dance to inspire their piece, which includes several connecting fragments of string.
“I think for the main character, in my mind, she represents a woman that is constantly stuck in a cycle,” Leftwich said. “A lot of women are stuck in that cycle of getting into these types of relationships and situations with people who they are more invested in than the other person — that’s kind of how I see it. It’s a repeating thing for her and I think that’s why there is an angry part at the end, because it’s like, ‘Once again, I’ve done this to myself. I knew not to go there and I did anyway.’”
The first half of the show ends with a performance choreographed by adjunct professor Brixey Blankenship.
“It’s about love having no colors,” Prokop said. “Kind of being color blind when it comes to who you love, love has no bounds and those kinds of things.”
The second half of the program will begin with a dance choreographed by the chair of the department, Golden Wright.
“All I know for this piece is that there is going to be a wall of fog,” Prokop said. “I’m sure it’s going to be dance-with-technology oriented.”
Prokop’s piece is a 15-minute work divided into four sections, called ‘Rough, Holy, Deadly, Immediate.’ Prokop said his piece is a collaboration with Cherie Acosta, LU costume designer, inspired by the book “Hidden Beauty, Exploring the Aesthetics of Medical Science” by Norman Baker and Christine Iacobuzio-Danahue.
“She found this book where they photographed disease, but on a cellular level,” Prokop said. “She wrote the author and asked if we could use some of his pictures. What she did was take these pictures, put fabric on them and turned them into dresses. The piece kind of came about what it feels like, to feel like you have an illness, sort of like a hypochondriac. The second part is a duet with a man and a woman, and it’s kind of supposed to be about her being diagnosed with an illness and he plays the doctor role.
“The third section is where the girls wear the dresses and are somehow living with this disease and trying to find ways to cope. Our last section employs a nine-foot skirt where the dancer walks up stage and to her death. Basically, we kind of played with the idea that we put a stigma on people who are diagnosed with a terminal illness and almost treat them as handicapped, when they are trying their best to live handicapable. We also played with the idea of pretty versus ugly, and you’ll see that in the dance.”
The concert ends with a high-energy closer by instructor Lou Arrington. The performance includes a 19-piece band with tap, swing and jazz.
“What I love about this year’s concert, is that every semester our choreographers content is getting richer,” he said. “We’re starting to transition into a very nice harmonious marriage of art and entertainment. I would say, last year showed more variety and this year shows Lamar in a more refined and polished way. We finally know who we are as a dance department now.”
Prokop said that overall, he hopes the audience connects with the dancers on stage and enjoys the work that has gone into the performance.
“My hope, always, from viewing dance is that they are inspired and motivated, or that they get a clearer look to who they are on the inside,” he said. “It’s going to be entertaining. It’s going to make you cry, it’s going to make you laugh, and make you do all things dance concerts are meant to do.
“We want people to walk away from it knowing that we are doing really good work up here, we’re progressing and we won’t stop until we’re all celebrities.”
Show times are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with a matinee on Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $7 for students, $10 for faculty, staff and senior citizens, and $15 for general admission.
UP staff writer