Shelby Reller and Jared Douglas rehearse for the "Cosmogony' dance show.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
‘Cosmogony’ dance show explores the elementsTweet
This year’s student dance show homes in on the four elements to connect the audience to universal experiences.
“The show is about the four elements, but it’s also about relating those elements to our lives,” dancer Erin Murphy says. “Earth means stability, water means emotion, fire means desire and air means thought.”
The name for this year’s show, “Cosmogony,” refers to a theory of how the universe came into existence. Director and choreographer JoEllen Kuhlman appropriates this theory by bringing these elements and feelings to life on stage. Kuhlman says she found inspiration for the piece from a song by an instrumental hip-hop artist with cool beats.
“I found the music first and it just sounded like the elements to me,” says Kuhlman, who also teaches jazz and tap in the Theatre Department. “Then I grouped [the piece] into [the four] different sections and crafted it from there.”
Kuhlman defines “Cosmogony,” which opens this weekend, as a mix of contemporary jazz and modern with some tap and hip-hop.
“It’s going to be visually interesting whether [people] like dance or not,” she says. “I think everyone will enjoy it. It’s kid-friendly, too.”
The movements reflect the four elements by being both grounded and airborne while the dancers move individually and in unison. According to Murphy, a first-semester graduate student in the Master of Arts in Teaching program, this diversity is unusual in a dance show.
“It’s inspiring seeing how [Kuhlman] interprets the music and translates it to movement right in front of you,” she says. “Jo doesn’t get restricted to one style. … It’s rare that, as a dancer, being involved in a dance show you get to be involved in contemporary, modern, ballet, jazz and tap movement all in one show!”
Murphy has worked with Kuhlman since her freshman year, and yet she feels especially fortunate to be a part of “Cosmogony.”
“As a group, everyone in the cast has his or her own little elements and differences,” Murphy says. “This show is an incredible experience because it brings together so many different people and dancers.”
Kuhlman refers to her 10 dancers as a “mixed cast” in terms of years of experience and style. As a result, she choreographs based on each person’s strengths.
Jared Douglas, a senior double majoring in psychology and theatre with a dance concentration, calls Kuhlman’s creative process “brilliant.”
“Jo has an incredible way of pulling things out of people, things they didn’t know existed or pushing you to do things you didn’t even think of,” he says. “Her creativity is endless. Somehow she manages to tailor choreography to our strengths while still pushing us out of our comfort zones to better ourselves.”
For Douglas, this is his last opportunity to dance before he graduates.
“’Cosmogony’ is my swan song,” he says. “It’s a culmination of 18 years of experiences and emotions I’ve enjoyed through dance.”
Performances are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 12-13, and 2 p.m. Sunday, April 14, in the Anderson Center’s Osterhout Concert Theater. Tickets are $10 for general admission, $8 for faculty/staff/seniors, and $6 for students with ID.
Murphy believes “Cosmogony” is the Theatre Department’s best show yet.
“A dance show of this caliber is still a fairly new addition,” she says. “I hope audiences leave inspired and asking when the next dance show will be.”
Douglas wants to leave a similar impression.
“My hope, though, is that at least one of these pieces resonates with every person,” he says. “I want them to feel engaged, to have a memory sparked and re-experience past emotions. One of the beauties of dance is how subtly and quickly feelings can sneak up on you, whether performing or watching. You never really know what you’re going to feel until you feel it.”