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April 20, 2006

   

Bryn Mawr Students Perform in Philadelphia; Dances Address Perception, Race

Dancers

Two Bryn Mawr dance majors have been invited to present their senior projects at Festival 42, a two-day dance event organized by the Philadelphia dance company 7DanceCo., on Saturday, April 29. The performances will take place at St. Mark's Church, 4442 Frankford Ave. in Philadelphia. To buy tickets ($15 per show or $25 for a festival pass), call 215-467-6984.

The featured works are "A Common Sense," choreographed and directed by Kate Patchett '06 and performed by Rachel Birch '06, Natalie Bishar '06, Jackie O'Mara '06 and Patchett; and "Life Story," which was conceived and directed by Bishar. "Life Story" was collectively choreographed and is performed by Racism Dance Theater Workshop, a group consisting of Natalie Bishar, Rima Bishar '08, Laura Brymer '08, Marcelina Chavira '07, Maria Fernandes '06, Britt Fremstad '08, Adobai Kanu '08, Patchett, Katherine Pioli '06, Mridula Shankar '06, Sky Stegall '07 and Nina Breton, a member of the local community.

Natalie Bishar  
Natalie Bishar '06  

Bishar was inspired to create the Racism Dance Theater Workshop after seeing a protest action organized by students of color last year.

"These women standing strong — it was a very powerful image for me," Bishar says. "I wanted to do a performance that directly addresses issues of race that are often hidden. Last year I took a course called 'Theater of Witness' at Swarthmore, and I wanted to incorporate that approach into my project."

Bishar put out a call for volunteers to participate in the project. She collected a diverse group of workshop participants — some experienced dancers, some who had no training in dance at all.

With help from comparative literature major Dinu Ahmed '08, she interviewed the participants about their experiences surrounding race. Then she brought the group together for a number of workshop sessions in which the stories were shared and translated into movement.

"It became a space where we could really talk about race," Bishar says. "The dance aspect made the conversations fun. We became attuned to each other through movement and felt comfortable with each other, so we became very open about our experiences."

"My job was to ask questions," Bishar says. "I challenged the dancers, and I hope I challenge the audiences."

Pioli and Patchett
Pioli and Patchett at rehearsal

Patchett, who choreographed and directed "A Common Sense," is a double major in dance and philosophy. Her dance project, she says, relates loosely to her philosophy thesis, which explores the nature of human perception.

"It is essentially a narrative," Patchett says, "about a group of people moving through a series of stages of a crisis concerning what they understand about the world. But I don't want to give the audience too much direction about how to see it; viewers will take different things away from it.

"Two students in a dance course wrote dance criticism papers about my piece, and it was interesting how differently they saw it," Patchett notes. "I don't want to rule out any interpretations. Doing this dance project was a wonderful complement to my philosophy project — I could explore any aspect of perception I wanted to and not have to worry about justifying my arguments, because it's art."

Both pieces were performed at Bryn Mawr earlier this spring.

—Photos by Jia Jia Fei '08

 

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