Common Hour features dancers to showcase turmoil of war

By Samantha Greenfield, Staff Writer||

This week’s Common Hour combined speakers and dance performances to commemorate the First World War.

“Dance, like some other art forms, is a non-verbal form,” said Pamela Vail, assistant professor of dance.

Vail explained that the medium of dance is the body, and because of this, all of us are already attune to dance. During Common Hour, she asked audience members to be present and obstain from using phones and other screens that Vail said can cause a sort of disembodiment.

The performances that followed were snippets of what students will perform at the Fall Dance Concert in December. This performance did not include lighting or costumes, so it created a different way to view the dancing.

The three performances were extremely different. The first two were choreographed by the choreographers Isabel Duncan and Martha Graham respectively. The third piece was a hula dance that praised the god of the volcanoes, Pele, in Hawaii. Lynn Brooks, Arthur and Katherine Shadek Professor of Humanities and Dance, gave the audience an introduction to who Isabel Duncan was as a person, dancer, and as a global influence.

Isabel Duncan lived during the World War I era and choreographed dances that spoke to the call to war. She established the Bellevue School for Dance in Paris, not only to teach dance to children but to also bring joy to their lives. In 1916, Duncan danced a program titled “Marche Heroique” which means the heroic march; this piece was performed by eight Franklin and Marshall Students on the floor of the gym in Mayser. The dance contained a lot of movements that would have encouraged viewers to join the war effort.

Next, Jennifer Conley, assistant professor of dance, introduced the next piece, which was choreographed by Martha Graham in 1937 in the wake of fascism and the Spanish Civil War. Martha Graham’s dances were largely socio-political statements.

In fact, she was asked to dance in the Olympics games in Germany and declined because she could not ignore the growing fascist powers in Europe.

An excerpt of the piece titled Spectre 1914, which was the opening solo from Martha Graham’s larger compilation titled “Chronicle,” was performed by Alex Winer ’15, a dance major. “Chronicle” depicts the international atmosphere from the years 1914, with the beginning of the First World War, until 1936 and the rise of fascism.

Winer wore the same type of
costume that Martha Graham used; a black and red floor-length skirt. The skirt was used throughout the dance to depict the austerity and danger of the year 1914. Winer performed this excerpt without music and Conley asked the audience to think of what they thought the music would sound like.

Next, Hawaiian visiting choreographer, Mika Cox McDougall, introduced the hula that would be performed. Pele, the god of the volcano, is honored through the hula, an ancient dance that describes her dancing, hissing, and floating journey down the mountain. The
students danced the hula and chanted phrases in Hawaiian throughout the piece.

Common Hour concluded with questions from the audience about gender roles in dance as well as what role dance plays in the life of students here at F&M.

The one male dancer, who performed in the hula dance, spoke about how dancing as a male is about staying grounded while the female dancers often jump and leap. Then the students talked about how dance is a stress relief and also is something to study academically. Dance, they said, can be linked to almost every other subject.

Senior Samantha Greenfield is a staff writer. Her email is sgreefi@fandm.edu.

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