Dance, Space, and Light
Aurora Borealis opens with new works on Feb. 15
When the lights go down at the start of Boston University’s fifth annual Aurora Borealis dance event, the audience — and the dancers — will be left in the dark. The lighting for the first dance, If Any Such Space Exists, consists of infrared light and shadowy images of the dancers projected on a backdrop. The audience will catch only glimpses of movement by the dancers as they speak phrases describing what “space” means to them. If Any Such Space Exists is one of seven pieces being performed in this year’s Aurora Borealis, an annual collaboration between the College of Fine Arts school of theatre and the Department of Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance.
“Aurora started as a need to give lighting designers more experience in designing for dance, which places a strong emphasis on side lighting and the needs of three-dimensional bodies,” says Judith Chaffee, a school of theatre associate professor and Aurora Borealis codirector. “Designers have to know the music as dancers know the music,” she says, “because it is music that gives dancers their cues, not lines from a script.”
Many of the show’s dancers belong to the Dance Theatre Group, which comprises dance minors and enthusiasts who attend a weekly dance class, perform once a semester, and receive faculty critiques of their work. Others are CFA theater students whose course work includes a stint on a dance production.
“The two groups have the opportunity to observe each other and learn from each other,” says Micki Taylor-Pinney, PERD coordinator of dance and Aurora Borealis codirector. “Dancers have more technical training, and actors bring more stage presence and dramatic tension.”
Some of the seven dance pieces have been performed previously, but works choreographed specifically for Aurora Borealis give CFA students the opportunity to contribute to the process from start to finish. The dimly lit first piece, which is danced in the dark, was choreographed by Chaffee and Ulrike Praeger (CFA’11), with help from lighting designer Ryan Connealy (CFA’08) and music designer Alex Neumann (CFA’09).
“My biggest challenge,” says Connealy, “was to try to keep the piece moving in a cohesive direction without using visible light.”
The six other pieces range from a portrayal of physical therapy movements to a battle between ballet and hip-hop. The last dance of the evening, the premiere of Sufi and Sacred Dances by Ibrahim Miari, combines traditional dances from the Far East and Central Asia with the dizzying techniques used by whirling dervishes.
Aurora Borealis: A Festival of Light and Dance opens Thursday, February 15, at 7:30 p.m., at the Boston Center for the Arts Calderwood Pavilion, 527 Tremont St., Boston. It will also be performed Friday, February 16, and Saturday, February 17, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, February 18, at 2 p.m. Members of the BU community receive one free ticket per BU ID at the door on the day of the performance, subject to availability. Tickets cost $10 for the public and $8 for BU alumni. Tickets can be purchased online at www.bostontheaterscene.com, by phone at 617-933-8600, or in person at the Boston University Theatre box office, 264 Huntington Ave.
Catherine Santore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.