Heralded by the New York Times as, “a postmodernist pioneer in the use of verbal material in dance,” choreographer Jane Comfort is one of the premiere creators of multidisciplinary dance theater that pushes the intersection of movement and language in performance. The Tennessee native will bring her dance company, Jane Comfort and Company, to campus for a series of events Feb. 8-11.
The four-day residency will culminate in a performance of the group’s award-winning piece “Underground River” and a new work titled “Fleeting Thoughts” at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 11, in the Winn-Seeley Gym-Theater. Tickets to this event can be purchased at the Winn-Seeley box office one hour prior to the performance and will be priced at $7 for general admission, $5 for HWS faculty and staff and $3 for students and children.
Winner of a 1998 Bessie Award, “Underground River” is an exploration of the rich, fantasy life of a girl who appears, to the outside world, to be unconscious. Backstage magazine has called the piece, which includes luxuriant a cappella songs and a tiny marionette ribbon dancer, “magical.” Featuring a vocal score by Toshi Reagon, “Underground River” is sung entirely by the performers.
“Fleeting Thoughts,” the company’s newest piece, bridges the gap between text, song and movement in what Comfort calls “a kinetic painting.” Exploring the extremes of timing and special relationships, “Fleeting Thoughts” is a largely unscripted, non-linear work arising from improvisation and intuition. The piece features composer, performer and sound artist Joan La Barbara performing live in a score rich with her unique vocabulary of experimental and extended vocal techniques. La Barbara, hailed by the San Francisco Examiner as “one of the great vocal virtuosas of our time,” will also take part in a performer-audience feedback session immediately afater the Saturday evening performance.
As part of their residency, Jane Comfort will give a lecture on Collaboration and the Creative Process at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 8 in the Geneva Room of the Warren Hunting Smith Library. Comfort has choreographed Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s musical Passion and Michel Legrand’s Amour for the Broadway stage, as well as The Public Theater’s Much Ado About Nothing for Shakespeare in the Park. She has collaborated with visual artist Keith Sonnier, composer and writer Carl Hancock Rux and others throughout her career. The lecture is free and open to the public.
The Company will also be making stops in several area classrooms, including a Masters Class in dance composition/improvisation from 1:30 to 2:55 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 9 in the Winn-Seeley Dance Studio; a Master Class in dance technique from 1:24 to 2:50 p.m. on Friday, Feb 10 also in the Winn-Seeley Dance Studio; and a lecture-demonstration for 4th- and 5th-graders at West Street Elementary School on Friday, Feb. 10. Those interested may contact the Dance Department at (315) 781-3495 for class fee and participation information.
Jane Comfort and Company’s residency is sponsored by the Dance Department. This project is also supported by the NYS DanceForce with funding from the New York State Council on the Arts Dance Program, Altria Group, Inc. and The J.P. Morgan Chase Foundation.
Comfort is a choreographer, director and writer who has pioneered the possibilities of multidisciplinary dance since the ’70s. Known for her avant-garde and often politically charged, issue-oriented works integrating text and movement, she is lauded widely for her original approach to multidisciplinary dance/theater performance.
Jane Comfort and Company has received support from the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, New York Foundation on the Arts, and numerous other foundations, including the Doris Duke Foundation, Creative Capital Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation.
Photos by Arthur Elgort.