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Dance Ensemble inspired by water crises

Guest choreographer Daniel Singh created a piece influenced by Indian dance for the performance. Photo by Sno Zhao.
Guest choreographer Daniel Singh created a piece influenced by Indian dance for the performance. Photo by Sno Zhao.
Guest choreographer Daniel Singh created a piece influenced by Indian dance for the performance. Photo by Sno Zhao.

Gabe Lehman

This weekend, Grinnellians will be treated to the debut performance of “Water, water everywhere … and not a drop to drink” in Bucksbaum’s Flanagan Theatre. “Water” is the latest work of Dance Ensemble/ACTivate with Artistic Director Celeste Miller, Theatre and Dance.

This show is slightly different from past Dance Ensemble performances in that it is presented in parts. Guest choreographer Daniel Singh’s piece, “Quest,” starts the show, and Miller’s “Galileo’s Tears” brings it to a close. 

The show deals with water crises around the world and their interconnectedness. From the recent public health emergency in Flint, Michigan, to the Syrian refugee crisis, the show touches on a wide breadth of timely topics.

“The thread that ties [the multiple crises] all together is water and the human right to water,” said performer Rosie Fuqua ’16.

Miller hopes that the deeply personal issue of water is able to leave an imprint on her audience.

“As always with my work, my desire is that least one person in the audience can walk away feeling that they have reconnected to their humanity,” Miller said.   

The dancers in this production are accompanied by a number of different audio mediums, as is typical in Miller’s shows, ranging from spoken word to recorded tracks, singing and live string instruments. The dancers have to be flexible and adaptive with their styles.

At first glance, “Water” does not seem like a typical Miller production. The Flanagan stage is mostly empty and there are no extravagant light effects to begin. However, as the show progresses, the stage is filled with more and more props — some more cartoonish than others — and the show takes on Miller’s signature style.

“I was interested in how … the [layers] of all these stories begin to sort of leave their mark on the space until the end, where it’s a mess,” Miller said of her conceptualization of the performance.

While Miller’s piece takes up the lion’s share of the performance, Singh’s work is no less prominent. Singh is a professional choreographer from Washington D.C. who is in Grinnell for only a short period to work with Grinnell dance students. For Singh, it has been refreshing to work with amateur dancers.

“With a student group, just getting the movement vocabulary in their body takes a little longer,” Singh said. “But I think the students have some new ways of moving, which makes my movement look interesting. [The students] are taking it and making it their own in an unique way.”

Something to look forward to in Singh’s performance is the use of the dancers’ bodies as procession, a style influenced by Indian dance traditions.

“Water” will be the final performance for Fuqua and the rest of the Dance Ensemble seniors in their college careers — a point of potent sentimentality for both the dancers and their director.

“It is probably going to be one of the hardest things to leave behind about Grinnell,” Fuqua said. “Though the people in Ensemble are different each semester, really the community that is built is so strong and has been such an excellent place for me to come to four times a week for the past four years.”   

“It is very bittersweet,” Miller added. “That particular group, we’ve really, really managed ensemble because we’ve been together for so long. So the joy and the sadness that now they need to move on.”

Audiences have their chance to bid these senior dancers farewell at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday.

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