Dance piece depicts stages of life through movement and technology

Lauren Crist

Piece to be performed as part of ‘Dance ’08’

Three dancers are rehearsing to portray the stages of life in a unique dance for “Dance ’08: Excellence in Motion.”

Alicia Díaz, the current artist-in-residence for the School of Theatre and Dance, is the choreographer. She is working to combine dance, music and video for a piece titled “Yucuninu.”

“There’s a collaboration with the dancers, there’s a collaboration with the film makers and the sound designers,” Díaz said. “Dance is part of an art form that is in dialogue with other forms.”

The piece explores and illustrates the physical experience of falling and recovering, Díaz said.

“As a metaphor, it is about finding strength and a sense of dignity, and literally falling in a more emotional sense in terms of losing it, of losing your center in a difficult time where you feel that nothing makes sense,” she said.

“Yucuninu” originally began as a solo performance as a part of the Agua Dulce Dance Theater, which Díaz and her husband co-direct. Now it has been transformed to incorporate three dance students.

Díaz has also incorporated video footage of herself performing the dance at three different locations: Under a willow tree on a farm in Ravenna, Standing Rock in the Cuyahoga River, and a Hopewell Indian mound in Ravenna.

“It’s not a video that is trying to show the dance as is,” Díaz said. “It is more playing with the essence of each of those places.”

Each site corresponds with the three different stages of the dance.

“(The willow tree) gave me more of a sense of youthfulness and physical ability, and in the second location, Standing Rock, the dancer is more in the middle of life,” Díaz said. “The Hopewell Indian Mound is more mature and has a knowledge of life experiences.”

Each dancer represents three different stages of life.

“Sometimes I can imagine that it’s three different women at three different points in their lives,” Díaz said. “And sometimes I see it as one woman, so I see it in different ways at different times.”

Sharon Kriz, a junior with a double major in dance performance and the classics, said she enjoys the gestural part of the dance. She portrays the second stage of life in the dance.

“It almost tells a story just through the gestures as opposed to painting a huge landscaping picture of everything that is going on,” she said.

“Yucuninu” offers a different experience for each dancer.

“When I am doing my portion of the piece, I am thinking about the separation between Earth and my God and the struggles that I go through in between, and just how I come back to who I am in him and what he is in me,” said Stacie Morgan, a first-year dance education major.

The dancers were also able to take Díaz’s choreography and make it their own interpretation.

“I like to be able to put myself into the piece,” Morgan said, “and then be able to give it life my way, Stacie’s way.”

Morgan’s part of the dance represents the final stage of life.

For the majority of the piece, the dancers are spread across the stage and appear to pass the movement onto each other as the dance progresses.

“It’s basically just a connection between what’s above and below,” said Amanda Black, a sophomore dance performance major, “and how all three of us are connected.”

Black, who portrays the first stage of life, said she enjoyed working with a small cast for this piece.

“I like working with two other people and connecting with each other,” she said. “It’s kind of like we move together as one, but we are each dancing in our own separate bodies.”

The piece will be performed as a part of Dance ’08, which opens at 8 p.m. Nov. 21 in the E. Turner Stump Theatre in the Music and Speech Building. Performances continue at 8 p.m. Nov. 22 and at 2 p.m Nov. 23.

“It has been about relating to each other,” Díaz said. “They move very connected to what’s happening to the other people on stage, and I think that that’s a lesson to be able to have that kind of sensitivity on stage with another dancer.”

The dance was inspired by the Mixtec poem “Yunu Yucu Ninu” by Juan de Dios Ortiz, which was later interpreted by the Mexican-American singer Lila Downs. Downs’ song, “Yunu Yucu Ninu” from her album “Tree of Life” accompanies the piece.

“It was important to have her permission to use her music,” Díaz said. “For me it’s the beginning of a relationship with an artist that I respect, and that has been very exciting.”

Contact College of the Arts reporter Lauren Crist at [email protected].