B.U. Bridge is published by the Boston University Office of University Relations.
ballet to hip-hop
By Hope Green
Ginger Dagli majored in marine science and never took a dance class before her sophomore year. After just one basic course, she made her stage debut that spring with Boston University's Dance Theatre Group (DTG). Later she also took up choreography, delighting audiences with her creations at the intimate Sargent Dance Studio/Theatre.
This year DTG has invited Dagli (UNI'99) back to campus to participate in its annual spring concert on April 20 and 21, when the troupe marks its 30th anniversary. On the program is a modern piece she choreographed entitled "Shards of Glass," inspired by the January 26 earthquake in India.
"The instructors have been so supportive of students in Dance Theatre Group and of alumni like me," says Dagli, a policy analyst whose clients include the National Science Foundation and other federal agencies. "Dance is a big part of my life and gives me a lot of pleasure, even though I'm very busy with my career."
For three decades DTG has encouraged students of all ability levels to perform and choreograph in the dance form of their choice with guidance from the faculty of BU's Department of Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (PERD). They also have the privilege of working with artists-in-residence from the professional dance circuit.
A product of this collaboration on the spring concert program is "Boxed In," a work choreographed by the acclaimed dance team of Homer Avila and Edisa Weeks as a variation on "Garden of Selves," which DTG performed in February. In the new version, the student dancers emerge from cardboard boxes, build a tower with them, then knock down the edifice and go their separate ways.
Weeks told the students that the piece is partly based on her experiences as a visitor to New England. "She noticed how people on the streets of Boston can seem so cold when you're walking around," explains Christine Buleri (ENG'03), a dancer as well as the group's coordinator of publicity. "In this piece, everyone starts out doing their own thing, then they try to break out of their internal world and help one another."
Sad news about one of the creators of the piece has deeply affected the student performers. On April 5, Weeks' partner, Avila, underwent surgery for second-stage cancer in his hip. The operation has saved his life but is likely to end his career as a dancer. A portion of the proceeds from the DTG performances will go toward a fund in his name.
"It was a very large shock for all of us," Buleri says. "We're trying to do everything we can to help."
Another guest artist is Chu Ling, a choreographer from China who has a studio in Cambridge and is affiliated with Boston's Dance Umbrella. Both of her pieces for the spring concert combine modern and traditional Chinese dance forms and incorporate swirling fabric and ribbons.
There is something for every taste on the concert program, from classical ballet to hip-hop. In addition to the guest-artist works, there are faculty pieces choreographed by Micki Taylor-Pinney, Ramelle Adams, and Margot Parsons, as well as three pieces by alumni and a half-dozen by undergraduate students.
Dagli says "Shards of Glass" could apply to any catastrophe, not just the Indian earthquake. "I made it very abstract," she explains, "so it could be any type of incident where you wake sharply out of sleep and are startled by something extremely dangerous or life-threatening. In the piece, I wake up and have to decide who I will rescue from the disaster, so naturally I choose to save someone I have established a relationship with. Then I try to save a second individual, but I'm too late and have to deal with that reality."
Dagli had her costumes tailor-made in India. The embroidered white dresses, she says, "have a lot of flare and bounce to them because of the movement I've created. They're very simple and, I hope, very elegant."
"Shine," one of two pieces choreographed by Meredith Butulis (SAR'02), "is about people competing with each other," Butulis says. "We're using a strange setup, with boards on top of staircases. A lot of people are upside down with boards overhead, and they're tapping up there and on light poles. It's absolutely crazy."
Taylor-Pinney, the group's advisor and coordinator of dance at PERD, says the stature of BU's dance program is continuing to rise. Word about the new dance minor the University offers is getting around, and she has met with more prospective students this year than she has in any previous college-admissions season.
Moreover, increased funding has enabled her to recruit more guest artists.
"The fact that we've been able to do the residencies more often has upped the ante a little bit," she says. "We have a wonderfully diverse and extensive program, and we're demanding a lot more from our students in terms of choreography. It's getting more complex and more refined."
As always, Taylor-Pinney appreciates the range of academic knowledge her students bring to the studio. Butulis, a prolific choreographer who represented BU at the New England regional American College Dance Festival in March, is studying physical therapy at Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. She aspires to a career in treating dance injuries. Buleri, meanwhile, is majoring in mechanical engineering.
"What they study during the day is influencing their choreographic ideas," Taylor-Pinney says. "That's what I find so fascinating about teaching here."
Performances of Visions 2001 will be held at Sargent Dance Studio/Theatre, 1 University Rd., third floor, on Friday, April 20, at 8 p.m., and Saturday, April 21, at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 for students, senior citizens, and the BU community, and $7 for the general public. For more information, call 353-1597.