Exotic instruments and a ‘living’ sculpture set the stage for Fall Dance Concert at Sweet Briar

Posted on November 02, 2017 by Janika Carey

Rachel Woods dancing Rachel Woods floating over a chair. Photo by Andrew Wilds

A sculpture made from chimney-cleaning wire, live music from a guzheng and bells — these are just some of the elements in Sweet Briar College’s 2017 Fall Dance Concert. Performances take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10, and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 11, in Murchison Lane Auditorium in the Babcock Fine Arts Center. These events are free and open to the public.

Nine works total are planned for the concert, says Sweet Briar Professor of Dance Mark Magruder, and each of the pieces has been choreographed by one — or several — Sweet Briar choreographers. Among them: Magruder himself; his wife and fellow dance professor, Ella Magruder; recent grad Vanessa Finnegan; and students Taylor Jefferson ’19, Olympia LeHota ’20, Haylei Libran ’20 and Rachel Woods ’20.

Both Finnegan and Woods have planned solos and a group work, while Jefferson will perform an aerial solo using a fabric sling.

“My group piece is called ‘Sometimes Hard to Look at, Always Hard to See,’” says Finnegan, a 2016 B.F.A. graduate in Sweet Briar’s M.A.T. program. “It is an exploration of the various potential meanings of that phrase and was inspired by my own thoughts about my willingness — or unwillingness — to directly grapple with things in my life that are difficult to understand from only one perspective.”

Dance majors LeHota, Libran and Woods have teamed up to create a piece of collaborative choreography called “Nyx.”

Olympia LeHota dancing Olympia LeHota. Photo by Andrew Wilds

“We’ve incorporated different elements and styles into an interesting first group piece,” says LeHota, a sophomore who also majors in art history with an Arts Management Certificate. LeHota also will perform in a piece called “Mystic” by Woods, as well as a group dance for 12 choreographed by Mark Magruder.

Magruder’s solo, “Moon Gate,” will turn the stage into a kind of sculpture using flexible chimney-cleaning wire and a lyra — an aerial apparatus — as well as a black stool. Magruder, who is a proficient musician, will create the music score live on a guzheng, a Chinese instrument.

“I will then loop the score and dance to it,” he explains. “I will also be using large bells to help set an ambiance. I will be dancing through the sculpture and manipulating it.”

Magruder’s knack for marrying unusual props and ideas is familiar to anyone who has been to a Sweet Briar dance concert before, and his group piece “In the Gloaming” is no exception.

“Gloaming is the time between the end of day and the beginning of night,” Magruder says. “The title refers to a poem my daughter Mia wrote many years ago. I’ll explore the many things that occur in the change from day to night, both real and imagined, and playful — such as a strange Friday night football game in rural Virginia!”

Magruder composed the music himself, and he and former Sweet Briar employee Tom Marçais will be playing the score live. The piece includes 12 Sweet Briar student dancers: Finnegan, Rachel Rogers ’18, Woods, LeHota, Libran, Mary Parker ’21, Allegra Florimbi ’21, Sarah Jane Grubb ’20, Taylor Watson ’20, Jordan Sack ’20, Bella DePaulo ’20 and Cassie Mills ’20.

“Puzzle” is a group dance for six choreographed by Ella Magruder. The dance is based on basic movement phrases that have been manipulated by the choreographer.

“However, as the dance progresses, pieces of the ‘movement puzzle’ fall away or change,” she explains, adding that the dance carries “an underlying theme of communities and individuals facing change and loss, portrayed in a formal and symbolic way.”

For more information, contact Mark Magruder at mmagruder@sbc.edu or 434-381-6150.