Something to dance to

Mar 242010
Authors: Ashley Lauwereins

Wes Kenney wants tonight’s CSU orchestra concert to be different.

Kenney, director of orchestras for the University Center for the Arts, explained this concert, musically, is different than what is expected.

“Don’t expect to be hearing Brahms for 40 minutes,” Kenney said. “Every 10 minutes the audience will be listening to something radically different.”

But the Griffin Concert Hall audience will not only be stimulated audibly, but also visually.

In collaboration with special guests from the CSU Dance Department, the CSU Sinfonia will premier a combined symphonic and dance number at 7:30 tonight –– the first since the UCA opened in October 2008.

“With our new performing arts facility housing music and dance together, it seems fitting for collaborations to emerge,” Kenney said in a UCA press release.

A collision of two mediums

The connection between music and dance is inherent. Dancers need music to dance. But Carol Roderick, assistant ballet director and overseeing faculty member for the dance collaboration, said live music provides a different opportunity for her dancers.

“Recordings are not collaborative; it is not malleable,” Roderick said. “In dancing, we are looking to what happens when two active forces work with or against each other. When action and reaction come together.”

Tonight’s concert will provide the groups these active opportunities.

Roderick enlisted the help of Russian choreographer Viktor Kabaniaev, who came to Fort Collins in September to choreograph the piece.

Roderick told Kabaniaev of the space limitations, students’ skill levels and sent him the music weeks in advance to his arrival.

He spent a week with the students, teaching them the 16-minute routine. Since September, the students have been learning the show, hearing the music and responding to it, Roderick said.

Brittney Adams, a freshman dance and psychology major, is one of the eight students involved in the dance aspect of the concert. She said one of the biggest differences between this show and others at CSU is the length of time the students have been perfecting the routine.

“For me, contemporary movement is what I love to do,” Adams said. “Taking this choreography, I really get to show the audience my personality.”

The result is a dance working perfectly with the music, highlighting the dancers’ power and creating a truly collaborative experience.

At one point, a single dancer performs on stage, complimented by a flute, the highlighted instrument. In that moment, the two students connect in a special way, which Roderick described as a tangible connection while making art.

John Gough, a senior orchestra member, said playing for dancers is different than playing soley as an orchestra.

He said musicians usually play for perfection, but when playing for dancers or other performers, musicians have to step away from the narrow picture and look at the broader picture of melody and how to support the dancers.

“The interesting part is being on stage at the same time (as the orchestra),” Adams said. “I see the movement of the orchestra out of the corner of my eye and try not to get distracted.”

A wide selection of pieces

Unlike what may usually be associated with an orchestra concert, tonight’s CSU Sinfonia concert will feature very different composers.

All the music is dramatically different in tone and instrumentation layering, going from dramatic, heavy songs to more mellow, quiet and light songs.

Gough said each composer featured in the concert had a different style of composition, making each song unique.

“Each piece is in the contemporary style and has been written in the last 100 years,” Gough said.

According to both Gough and Kenney, Ruggles, one of the composers whose music is featured in the production, had no formal composition training and when composing, simply sat down at his piano to figure out what chords made him feel a certain way.

While an entire concert featuring Ruggles would be taxing on the listener, Gough said having one piece by him adds a nice explanation point to the concert.

Gough said the song composed by Stravinski incorporates the saxophone, an instrument not usually featured in an orchestra concert. Gough described this piece as catchy pop, which is different from the dark tone featured in Ruggles’ piece.

Stravinski’s “Dumbarton Oaks,” is the one piece in which the dance collaboration will take place.

This concert has the theme of being a “green concert” –– a play off the titles of most of the songs, which reference nature.
“Really, the theme is just something to hang really good music off of,” Kenney said.

The concert is in the Griffin Concert Hall at 7:30 p.m. tonight. The music is the only feature tonight. The dance piece will be featured again April 23.

Tickets are $7 for students, $12 for youth and $1 for children and can be purchased at the UCA Ticket Office or online at

Staff writer Ashley Lauwereins can be reached at

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