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USC Presents Student and Professional Dance

Choreography Showcase and Wideman/Davis at Drayton Hall
By Amy Overstreet
Wednesday, December 4, 2013 |
Wideman/Davis Dance teams up with SLIPPAGE in Cane. Photo by Alec Himwich
The University of South Carolina’s dance department offers two performances this week showcasing a diversity of themes and styles. Future Perfect spotlights original choreography conceived and performed by university dance students. Then, USC’s resident professional company Wideman/Davis Dance teams up with Duke University’s experimental SLIPPAGE arts collective in a performance called Cane. The two shows began Dec. 3 and continue Dec. 4-6 at Drayton Hall Theater on the USC campus.

The evening begins with Future Perfect, featuring the work of eight student choreographers. Under the direction of USC dance faculty member Cindy Flach, the annual concert provides dance students the opportunity to hone their choreographic skills. Students host auditions and cast their own pieces and are responsible for selecting musical accompaniment, choosing a theme, and scheduling and conducting rehearsals.

Babel, by senior dance performance major Hannah Thomasson, was inspired by Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Her brother, a graduate student in music at Belmont University in Nashville, composed an original score for her piece.

“As faculty, we give these dancers a sense of support to push them out of the nest,” Flach says.

Cane is a collaborative effort between Wideman/Davis Dance and SLIPPAGE, featuring guest artists Sara Paul and Amber Mayberry.

Thaddeus Davis and Tanya Wideman-Davis launched their critically acclaimed company in 2003. They describe their style as one that “creates dialogue about the human condition, by using dance as its central voice but not the sole voice.”

Cane is based on Jean Toomer’s 1923 novel of the same name, a major early literary work of the Harlem Renaissance. Composed of sketches, poems and stories of black rural and urban life, the book depicts the horrors of lynching and race riots. The interpretive dance piece premiered at Duke University last spring. Indy Week called it “an evocative, allusive homage to an underappreciated classic.”

The origins of the dance go back to Thaddeus Davis’ and Tanya Wideman-Davis’ time as MFA students at Virginia’s Hollins University. One of their dance professors, Thomas F. DeFrantz, approached them about collaborating on a project inspired by Toomer’s book. DeFrantz, now a professor at Duke University, was the brainchild behind SLIPPAGE, a multidisciplinary arts collective that explores emerging technology in live performance. He formed the group while at MIT; it is now based at Duke.

“When Tommy asked us to collaborate with him, we were beyond flattered — and touched that a professor of ours thought enough of our work to want to partner with us,” says Tanya Wideman-Davis. “We also were aware of the work that he had done in terms of dramaturgy for other companies and choreographers, and we knew this would take our perspective on dance-making to another level.”

Special effects are created with Isadora, an award-winning media-manipulation software that allows for a highly interactive technological and visual experience.

“I think it is a meditation,” Wideman-Davis says of the piece. “It is a contemporary perspective on historic memory. It is not a work that is feel-good entertainment, but it offers a sensorial experience.”

The student showcase starts at 6 p.m. each evening. Tickets are $12 for students, $16 for USC faculty/staff, military and seniors and $18 for the general public. Call 777-5112 to reserve or charge by phone at 251-2222. Tickets for Cane which begins at 8 p.m., are the same price, but sold separately, and can be reserved by calling 777-5112.

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