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Annual Grad Dance Concert to Explore Identity

This year’s MFA Dance Concert, always a popular winter event, features new works by four second-year graduate students in dance. The concert, titled You/Me/Here/NOW, will take place Thursday through Saturday, February 14 to16, at 8 p.m. each night in Theatre 14, Mendenhall Center for the Performing Arts.

You/Me/Here/NOW comprises the choreographic creations of Vanessa Anspaugh, Aretha Aoki, Maura Donohue, and Meredith Lyons. The concert explores shared experiences of being in the present moment, of personal identity, and of group identity—its dynamics and tension.

Vanessa Anpsaugh presents an exploration in “nothingness.” From the slow moment-to-moment unfolding of the human character drifting in and around murky and precise spaces, living photographs emerge and fade representing a documentation of the present. With sudden jerking ticks, gnarled twists, and a rendered pawing at time, this psychological landscape reveals glimpses of both a personal and communal consciousness that is hauntingly absurd, acutely mundane, and pointedly spacious.

Aretha Aoki’s performance project investigates identity as the gap between expectation and lived experience, and the boundaries (real or imagined) between the group and the individual. Four dancers receive direction on stage from an outsider. The outsider’s desire for inclusion as well as distance is mirrored by the dancers and, sometimes, the relationship is inverted with small encounters emerging.

Maura Donohue showcases 16 dancers using video, improvisational performance, interactive technology, and a treatment of the performance venue meant to invoke an interactive and immersive experience for the audience as well as the artist within the confines of a formal space. “Present TENSE/Present CONTINUOUS” challenges the traditional notion of a fixed, concert-based dance work by inviting a relationship of reciprocity between dancer and viewer, allowing the audience to influence the direction and realization of each night’s performance. In doing so, Donohue takes both a profound and light-hearted look at the inevitable passage of time, reveling in the constantly unfolding moment while teasing out considerations of nostalgia and impermanence. Donohue, who spent over a decade in New York City directing her performance troupe Maura Nguyen Donohue/inmixedcompany, has been noted by the Village Voice for her “sumptuous craftsmanship and caustic sense of humor” and by the New York Times for her “work’s emotional intensity.”

Meredith Lyons presents a new quartet exploring the uniqueness within community. Four dancers bring their individual personas and singular characterizations into points of conflict with themselves and between one another, and who also find each other in times of need. Using contemporary movement the dancers display a pure honesty to themselves and to the audience. Lyons takes ideas and images of conflict and trauma from the past as her creative springboard and interweaves them to create searing, visceral dances.

Tickets for the concert are $9, general public, $5 for students and seniors. Call 413-585-ARTS (2787). For more information, consult


2/8/08   Excerpted from a music department press release
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