Why You Should Go to ASU’s First Annual Inaugural Dance Concert Next Week!

By on 10 November, 2014 in Art, Fun, Lynne Schneider with 0 Comments
ASU dancers at the closing ceremony of the Symposium last week.

ASU dancers at the closing ceremony of the Symposium last week.

Prepare for delight and amazement next week at the Tullibody Fine Arts Theater, when Alabama State’s brilliant new dance company will stage its inaugural performance.

Dance can be a spectacular, breathtaking extravaganza, dozens of performers choreographed in wildly complex patterns of sound and movement, and dance can touch like chamber music, poignant and intimate. Whatever the scale of the performance, Alabama State University dance embodies energy, wit and beauty.

ASU offers a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree in dance and a handpicked and rigorously rehearsed troupe will showcase why the Theater and Dance Department hosts one of only two accredited university dance curricula in Alabama.

When I came to teach at ASU a year ago, dance here dazzled me. The first University Convocation I attended, I watched an impeccable color guard open the ceremony. Dignitaries mounted the dais and speakers took to the podium. Then, the solemnity of the gathering exploded into music. The band! The chorus! And just when I thought that an academic assembly could not get better, students of dance emerged from the wings.

That spectacle in the Acadome left me speechless with wonder. I tried to tell friends from back home how fantastic ASU dance was, or even how I felt at that moment. I appreciated the skill of the movement, music and the pattern of the choreography. But it was more than that. I saw the artistry, but it is impossible to translate the magic of seeing art in action. How could I explain the thrill of seeing all of that? And at that same time I knew that seeing is part of the art.

Seeing dance in person grants us membership in an unrepeatable moment. And that moment is both expansively shared and deeply personal. In her 2007 study Dancing in the Streets, Barbara Ehrenreich examines dance as one of what Mircea Eliade calls “techniques of ecstasy.” Other techniques include feasting and dressing up – that is, artistic and decorative face and body painting, costumes, and other transformations that take the dancers out of their ordinary, everyday identities and into a larger shared joy.

Through dance, we step outside ourselves and into a community of wonderment. Victor Turner called that group happiness and excitement communitas. Emile Durkheim called it collective effervescence. For ten thousand years, Ehrenreich says, people have achieved community in its deepest sense through feasting and dancing and costume. “Why these activities and not others?” she asks. “The simplest answer is that these are the activities that work” [emphasis hers]. Finally, she asks, “If we possess this capacity for collective ecstasy, why do we so seldom put it to use?”

We do not have to dance to join the dance. We might dress up. We might feast. But to enter the community of joy, we have only to spend 90 minutes with the new ASU BFA/Dance Company when it celebrates next week at the Leila Barlow Theater in the Tullibody Fine Arts Center. Things start at 7 p.m. from Wednesday-Saturday, with a matinee on Sunday at 3 p.m. It’s $25 each for Gala tickets, which include pre- and post-performance receptions, hors d’oeuvres and reserved seating; $12 Adult general admission, $8 Student Admission.

Dr. Lynne D. Schneider, Assistant Professor of English at Alabama State University, moved to sunny Montgomery from the frigid north (Upstate New York), delighted to discover that she had accidentally packed her windshield scraper. Before coming to ASU, she taught at SUNY Delhi, Broome Community College and Binghamton University. She also edited, wrote, cartooned, and took photographs for her local newspaper, earned her doctorate at Binghamton, and was Art Editor for BU’s Harpur Palate literary journal. Schneider won a poetry residency at The Saltonstall Foundation in Ithaca, New York and her poetry has appeared in The Patterson Review and other journals. She also published “Stuffed Suits and Hogwild Desire,” a chapter in Kermit Culture, the first scholarly study of Jim Henson’s Muppets.

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