Finger Lakes Dance! in the News – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
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Finger Lakes Dance! in the News

“Finger Lakes Dance!” a recent concert held at the Smith Opera House and for which Cadence Whittier was artistic director, was featured in an article in the Daily Messenger. Whittier, associate professor of dance at HWS, received a state grant to organize the event; the article quotes her as saying, “I’m just amazed at how many talented dancers and choreographers are in the Finger Lakes and greater Rochester area – this whole region is really quite impressive.”

Information about the concert was posted on the Colleges Daily Update before the event.

The full article from the Daily Messenger appears below.

Daily Messenger
“A showcase for modern dance”

David Wheeler • staff writer • Oct. 1, 2008

Geneva, N.Y. –
Moving to Geneva in 2000 to teach at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Cadence Whittier says she was “instantly impressed with the wealth of talented dance artists in this region.” Now a state grant has enabled her to bring a number of those artists together for a themed concert Saturday, Oct. 4, in Smith Opera House.

“Finger Lakes Dance!” will feature the choreography of seven dance artists from the Finger Lakes region, along with several area dancers, community members and a visual artist, with pieces organized loosely around the theme of “space” – in some cases, the physical and mental gulf between people; in others, the clutter and debris that fills up our lives.

“I’m just amazed at how many talented dancers and choreographers are in the Finger Lakes and greater Rochester area – this whole region is really quite impressive,” said Whittier, the concert’s artistic director and associate professor of dance at the colleges. Noting that many regional dance artists tend to perform in Rochester, Syracuse or Ithaca, she said, “It seemed it was time to bring this talent to Geneva.”

And – which was important – at an inviting cost: Admission is $5. “This is a low-income area in general – we thought it would be a great opportunity for people to be able to come to the Smith Opera House and see a dance concert and not be financially troubled by the cost,” Whittier said.

The concert features nine pieces, some abstract, some comical, some theatrical. The choreographers include Whittier, Donna Davenport, Yvonne Hassett, Michelle Iklé, Jeanne Schickler Compisi, Missy Pfohl Smith and Cynthia Williams.

They include “Inside the Box,” a piece that Davenport and Schickler Compisi created that suggests American life as one of structure, but of freedoms and possibilities within that structure.

“It has a political edge,” said Davenport, associate dean of faculty and professor of dance at Hobart and William Smith. “It’s kind of a commentary on the structure that we live in in American society, the paradox of what we call freedom – and we have a lot of freedom – and the structure.” The societal rules, structures and obligations make it akin to living in a box, she noted – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. “I’m a very optimistic type of person, so it’s about all the creative possibilities inside the box, all you can do to make your life full.” Which includes, perhaps mostly, human contact as an avenue to freedom. Two dancers take part in the piece – this Saturday, Davenport and Iklé.

“Inside the Box” was hardly the first collaboration between Davenport and her former student, Jeanne Schickler Compisi, who graduated from William Smith in 1996. They co-taught a dance ensemble and danced together in a trio Davenport choreographed, and Davenport was artistic director of the student’s senior concert. When Schickler Compisi returned to the Rochester area after marrying, “I was like, let’s make a piece!” Davenport said. Since then, “Inside the Box” has been performed in five venues – and, she said, has always been enthusiastically received, which doesn’t always happen with modern dance.

“We want to say something with the work,” she said. “We want people to like it, (but) it’s not usually our priority – so when people do like it, it’s delightful!”

Missy Pfohl Smith’s Rochester-based company BIODANCE will present her ensemble piece, “Excess,” created in conjunction with composer Abby Arresty and filmmaker Jesse Spielman. It explores the materialistic and acquisitive nature of modern life and the clutter – physical and otherwise – that results.

“The original idea was to talk about all the clutter that we have in our life – how everything is in excess, packaging, portions,” Smith said. “There’s so much stuff in our lives; it not only overwhelms us and brings us down, but it creates so much waste.”

“Excess” features five dancers, an original contemporary score for piano and string quartet, projected video images – and a dozen chairs, bubble wrap, ice cream and more. The tempo is fast-paced, much like modern life, and identity is fluid: “The chairs become our items, the people become stuff, and the chairs become people …”

Whittier has three pieces represented in the concert, all of which she said explore the theme in more lighthearted ways. In “beMused,” she collaborates with visual artist John Lord – “he plays a dysfunctional artist; I play an inept muse,” she said – who also did the set design. In “Off,” Whittier dances the role of a character who’s “off balance, a little off the wall, a little off-kilter,” she said: “The piece ends upside down and backwards on my head, which is kind of appropriate for the character.”

And then there’s “(dis)connect,” Whittier’s piece featuring Iklé and Smith that explores how technology changes the way people communicate. She said this piece arose from spending more time around college students, plus getting her first cell phone a couple years ago. “I became very interested in writing a theatrical duet between two women – what happens when one answers her cell phone and another starts writing on her laptop?” she said. “… We watch the tumultuous development of what happens when technology begins to enter the conversation – when are they connected, when are they disconnected, is there such a thing as being over-connected?”

Other pieces, as described by Whittier, include:

• “Mother Earth,” performed by Hassett’s Absolute Dance Company, which explores global warming and its effects on the environment and humanity.

• Williams’ “Absent Presence,” a meditation on light and its ephemeral and prismatic qualities, with a set design that includes columns on prisms hanging from the top of the stage. It’s performed to a minimalist score by Arvo Part.

• “wrought” by Iklé, a dramatic solo exploring physical and emotional tension and restrictions, and featuring an original score by Rochester-based composer David McGuire.

• Davenport’s “Shortest Distance Between Two Points,” a theatrical fun piece about lines in life. It’s a 1994 piece reconstructed for community members of various ages this summer and featuring Margaret Newland, Leigh Pitifer and Nina Pitifer.

The concert is made possible by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts Decentralization Program (administered locally by Phelps Historical Society and Phelps Art Center), along with grant support from Hobart and William Smith Colleges. This week, Whittier was finishing up another grant application, with hopes for a future concert incorporating dance, music and the visual arts, which she would like to stage at the Cracker Factory in Geneva.

If you go:
WHAT: “Finger Lakes Dance!” concert of pieces by local choreographers
WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 4, at 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Smith Opera House, 82 Seneca St., Geneva
TICKETS: $5, available at the HWS College Store (54 St. Clair St., Geneva) and Normal Bread Bakery (111 Washington St., Geneva), plus at the door
DETAILS: (315) 781-3949