Seniors in Barnard's dance department will take the stage at the Minor Latham Playhouse this weekend in the Senior Creative Thesis Dance Concert, the culminating performance of their college dance careers.
A mixed bill of 13 thesis performances, which vary from hip-hop ensembles to videos, mark the end of a long journey for 14 Columbia and Barnard dancers. They have been given absolute creative license, and their concepts range in form and theme.
The dance department requires its students to reflect on their roles within the arts community through a senior project. In addition to classes in dance history, movement science, and composition, dance majors must participate in two semesters of senior work. One is devoted to an intellectual analysis of a topic that relates to dance, while the other allows students to stage a new repertoire or learn and execute variations from professional companies.
One of the students performing this weekend is Daniel Pahl, CC '14, a biology and dance double major who has participated in the Senior Creative Thesis Dance Concert as a dancer since his sophomore year. Pahl said his solo piece dives into his own narrative and deciphers "what it is to feel powerful and still feel restrained and oppressed." Pahl's creative project is based on his written thesis from the fall, which explored the partnership between choreographer Bill T. Jones and artist Keith Haring during the AIDS epidemic.
"I somehow wanted to figure my own experience with what I had been researching," Pahl said.
Gina Borden, BC '14, has choreographed for the Varsity Show and Orchesis and intends to pursue a career as a dancer in the city after she graduates. Borden's bond with New York and her love of Paris informed her senior thesis, which she originally envisioned as "a tale of two cities," though now it is more of "a pure exploration of movement."
Borden also chose to choreograph a solo for herself, which she set to guitar music by composer Tareq Abuissa, CC '14. She hired Mariah Maloney from the Trisha Brown Dance Company to direct her as she framed her ideas through a contemporary approach.
"It was a struggle focusing on myself because generally, even if I'm in my own pieces, I don't choreograph thinking about what I can do—I choreograph thinking about what my dancers can do," Borden said.
Leah Friedlander, BC '14, decided to use her senior thesis as an opportunity to stage a group work at Barnard for the first time. Inspired by an exercise in her composition class last semester, Friedlander is examining the dynamic between humans and objects with three other dancers.
"I wanted to use different props and interact with them in my piece and show sort of the relationship between dancers as props and props as dancers," she explained.
Most of Friedlander's props are household necessities, like cooking and cleaning tools, though one of her dancers uses a pom-pom.
Friedlander noted that her three partners brought much more to the table than just their bodies.
"It was a collaboration between myself and my dancers, so a lot of the movement is their own," she said.
For dance majors, the Senior Creative Thesis Dance Concert symbolizes the next step in their lives, when they will be released into the world to share their art with the public.
"There's just a wonderful feeling in the audience of everyone being there to support everything the seniors have accomplished in college," Pahl said. "It's really nice as an endpoint to see how all of us have grown during our four years here."
The Senior Creative Thesis Dance Concert takes place Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Minor Latham Playhouse. Tickets are $10, $5 with CUID and are sold at the door.