Dancing to history

The sound of cries mixes with the roaring of the wind as dancers move with the music. Together, they are intertwined in what represents the pain and struggle that gypsies have endured in their crusade with life.

The USF fall dance concert “Landscape of Motion” represents a variety of ideas related to the gypsies expressed with each dance. The concert will include a mix of dances including forms of ballet, modern dance, African dance and jazz.

The USF dance department has been performing concerts for the past three decades, and every year a spring and fall concert is performed with a variety of multicultural dances to provide different themes featuring several ethnic groups. But this semester, Jeanne Travers, assistant professor in the dance department, received a USF sponsored grant to research and trace the history of gypsies.

“I have been very fortunate to have been given a grant to study the gypsies, which has always been of interest to me,” Travers said.

With this grant, Travers has been able not only to research, but also have the funds to get dancers and musicians.

For instance, “Recuerdos del Camino” (Memories of the Road), choreographed by Travers, is a cultural, multimedia piece dramatizing the travel of gypsies. Through dance, the work shows how the gypsies came from India to the Balkan Peninsula and then to Andalusia, Spain. Throughout the dance, video imaging of dancers will be projected in the back of the stage while live Flamenco and Indian dancing further demonstrates the journey.

In this dance, Travers uses a professional Flamenco dancer, Esther Suarez-Moreno, and her husband, a professional Flamenco guitarist, who provides music for the piece. Adding to the music will be Sebastian Anthony Birch, USF assistant professor who is composing the violin solo and Konstantin Dimitrov, a guest artist, as the violinist.

In addition, Travers needed assistance determining how dances are performed in India and found support from the Students of India Association. Sudarsan Padmanabhan, president for SIA, provides a vocal piece in which he will sing Alaap, a singing of moods, or voice changes, following the dancer. While the dancer is performing, he will adapt the raga, or number of beats, to follow the dancers movement.

“No composing is needed for this singing, just improvisation,” said Padmanabhan. “When the dancer goes fast, I know I need to change the mood, and when she slows down, so do I.”

The piece will also consist of dancers who follow the music with their senses, including Erin Cardinal, a USF modern dance graduate, Elsa Valbuena, an adjunct instructor for the dance department and Kristi Spessard, a New York-based dancer.

Vasanta Chivukula, also a member of SIA and an Indian classical dancer, aided the performers with the hand movements and dances so they can symbolize Indian dance effectively.

“Dance is an expression of life, ecstasy of the heart,” Chivukula said, “(It) is an old saying that represents my feelings towards dancing.”

The concert will feature other dances such as “To the Moon,” choreographed by Kelly Drummond Cawthon, a USF dance alumni, which portrays the life of a housewife during the 1950s and “reveals the reality of being a woman through the decades,” according to a news release from the Dance Department. Latrice Gregory, a dance major at USF and the solo dancer, displays the trials of womanhood in the piece.

“Landscapes in Motion” also includes a piece choreographed by Vicki Somoya, USF dance alumnus, which is a movement piece following the sounds of nature.

Jennifer Salk, a USF faculty member, has created a female solo piece that is meant to be humorous. The setting will be around a bed, focusing on the struggles of sleep. “This particular piece is a mix between modern jazz and ethnic influences,” said Erin Taylor, a USF dance student. “It has been interesting working in this particular dance because of the variety of dances, as well as I was able to work with students from different classes.”Additionally, “Cocerto Vivant” features music by a well-known French composer, Francis Poulenc.

Closing the program will be a performance blending modern dance, jazz and African dance choreographed by Katurah Robinson, a guest artist. The piece is a fast-paced dance exemplifying the high energy of the dancers.

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