The intellectuals and the hard workers merged with the angry and the alone in an honors thesis showcase that broke conventions and presented research on, yes, a nonexistent infectious disease.
“A Question of Character” was the final culmination of College seniors Kaitlyn Pados and Alyssa Bruehlman’s work throughout the year. Playing characters such as “The Academic,” “The Outraged” and “The Oft Alone and Unattended,” Pados and Bruehlman presented their dance theses to packed audiences last week at the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts.
Taking on the character of “The Tireless Achiever,” Pados opened the show with “Maya,” a solo choreographed by Canada-based choreographer and performer Rob Kitsos. Her movements, which were sharp and impeccably clean, were primarily linear and signified the sort of drive that her character would hold.
Pados said that her thesis focused on the different styles of movement in modern dance.
“Modern dance includes such a broad range of movement qualities today — it is not like in years past when modern dancers studied with just one particular choreographer. A dancer cannot simply be an athletic mover, a graceful performer or a technical expert,” Pados said. “To hone my own movement adaptability, I chose to tackle this need for versatility by investigating dynamics in four very different solo works.”
Bruehlman came on stage next, dressed in business casual and gave a mock lecture behind a podium on “Sociokinetosis,” a fictitious illness which she described as a “highly infectious condition marked by a sudden desire to dance within a social setting.”
In a presentation rife with humor, Bruehlman set up a powerpoint presentation to introduce the audience to the concept of her work, which focuses on the “melding of three perspectives — ordinary pedestrian, dramatic dancer, vulnerable self,” according to the program notes.
“I wanted to examine the multiplicity of the performer in this project. In concert dance, there is a potential for the performer to be many things at once. He or she is almost always obligated to be perfect in some sense, yet there does need to be some relatable person or humanity to the performance,” Bruehlman explained in an interview with the Wheel
Audience members laughed throughout Bruehlman’s presentation, which defined “good times” as a risk factor for sociokinetosis and explained that 75 percent of college students experience this disease but that this year’s statistics were modest “due to the H1N1 outbreak, which prevented many students from dancing.”
To illustrate her research of the psuedo-illness, Bruehlman showed clips of people with sociokinetosis and who were victims of “Limbs Akimbo Syndrome,” or LAS, which involves the flinging of the limbs.
Videos displaying individuals dancing wildly at parties, of females with the “Beyonce effect” or women dancing to “Single Ladies” and of groups of people going through the “clapping phase” and the “get low phase” were presented as examples of those affected by the disease.
Pados performed three more solos during the show to portray “The Nearly Defeated,” “The Outraged” and “The Suppressor.”
“Solo for Pop Music #2,” choreographed by senior lecturer in the dance department Gregory Catellier, featured much floorwork to portray Pados’s defeated character. Catellier also choreographed “Solo for Pop Music #3,” to showcase the “Outraged” which began with a shaking of the hips that was almost comical but harsh.
Performed in jeans and a T-shirt, “Solo for Pop Music #3” quickly evolved into something confrontational when Pados slid across the floor with her foot kicked out, inches away from the audience. An extreme attention to detail, such as the curling of her fingers and toes, made even the smallest movement seem more significant and large than it might have otherwise appeared.
Pados’ “Swallowed,” a self-choreographed solo portraying the “Suppressor,” was performed with an emphasis on sustained choreography, which exaggerated her sudden outbursts of uninhibited, wild movement.
The juxtaposition of movement styles kept the audience in suspense because it was difficult to tell what was coming next. The layers and chunks of fabric on her costume stood still during Pados’ sustained moments and flew with her choreography when she erupted into movement.
Rehearsing as a soloist was challenging, Pados said, because it involved a self-evaluating process with which she was not familiar.
“During the rehearsal process, these characters started to emerge,” she said. “It seemed as if there was a different persona in each of my solos. Perhaps this was because they were solos rather than group works, and people are more likely to associate a character type with only one body on stage, but nevertheless, that was a development mid-rehearsal process that gave me something new to explore.”
Bruehlman showcased both a group piece and a solo, both choreographed by herself. “Here It Is” focuses on the characters, “The Ones Who Heard the Music.” A video played as the backdrop of the piece, which made it difficult at first to focus on what was happening on stage, but with the strategic use of repetition, soon began to complement the dancers.
The video showed footage of the performers dancing on the lawn by the Goizueta Business School, in CVS, on the street and other locations. The choreography was an exploration between pedestrian-like actions and dance vocabulary, mixing the action of typing or drinking from a cup with more conventional dance movement.
According to Bruehlman, “Here It is” changed dramatically from the beginning of the process to the end. Rehearsals began with “small, impromptu performances of simple phrase material” but evolved into something with a greater meaning.
In her solo titled “On Falling,” Bruehlman took on the character of “The Oft Alone and Unattended.” Dressed in a prim-looking dress, Bruehlman came on stage unexpectedly, giggling first and then doubling over laughing every time she looked towards the audience. After several minutes of composing herself, she began to dance in the center of the stage, maintaining her silly, giggly character without sacrificing the integrity and the technique of her dancing.
She interacted with those watching by making eye contact unabashedly as she danced and crawled towards the audience, stopping to retreat only when she was inches from the front row.
Although Bruehlman and Pados performed separate research projects, Bruehlman said that as they worked on their theses, the overlap in the presentation and examination of particular characters between their work became evident, which led to the title of the concert.
After dedicating so much time to her work, Pados said that it is hard to believe the concert is over.
“On one hand I can’t believe all of the time we spent working on the pieces, the programs, the costumes and the publicity is done forever, but on the other hand I’m relieved that it is over and that it personally went well,” Pados said.
The thesis show may be over, but it proved to be a memorable one that incorporated strong dance technique and serious choreography alongside humorous performances that both gripped the audience and left them laughing.
— Contact Alice Chen