Dance: No Translation Needed

Theater department’s quadrennial dance concert showcases the inventiveness of the choreography faculty. by Karin Fleming ’09

“White. A blank page or canvas. His favorite. So many possibilities . . . ”

For associate professor of theater arts Mary Corsaro, this quote, from the Stephen Sondheim–James Lapine musical Sunday in the Park with George, sums up what it means to put together a dance concert. “That line has always resonated with me,” says Corsaro, who regularly choreographs musicals. “When I think of dance concerts, I think of this quote.” Musicals, she points out, come with a script and a score, offering a jumping-off place for discussions about how the material might be approached. For a dance concert, however, everything must to be done from scratch.

Every four years, Ithaca College’s theater department does just that. This year the show Dance: No Translation Needed featured jazz, ballet, tap, and modern dance.

Corsaro’s jazz number, “Five’ll Get You Jive,” featured the antics of 20 characters and was set in a bar in the 1940s. This was the fifth time she staged the work, but with all the details, she notes, you could watch it many times and see something new each time.

While Corsaro revamped an old favorite, instructor Amy O’Brien collaborated with assistant professor Lindsay Gilmour to create a duet, “The Hummingbird and the Butterfly,” which featured their respective genres, ballet and modern. “It was a play off our personalities,” O’Brien says, “and the playfulness between modern and ballet.”

O’Brien also choreographed another number, “Between the Two Falls,” which had five movements, each of which represented a different emotion. “This was really a personal piece for me,” says O’Brien. “That [personal connection is] kind of my motivation for choreographing.”

This was O’Brien’s first experience with a quadrennial Ithaca College dance, and she says the process was intense. “Since it only happens every four years, everyone has to relearn how to do it,” she explains. “I was really proud of the students.”