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Dance performance

Documenting Dance From One Move to the Next

By Amanda Cairo

As dancers prepare for the University of Idaho fall dance concert Dec. 3 and 4, the hard work from behind the scenes is starting to pay off.

This year’s fall concert will feature six student choreographers and several faculty and guest artist pieces performed by around 25 students and three community members and will encompass ballet, modern dance and jazz.

“We have some really great dances we are preparing,” says dance coordinator Greg Halloran. “Our dancers are capable of so much.”

Beyond hours of practice and choreographing, this year’s concert has a special historical significance in the field of Labanotation, a standardized system for analyzing and recording any human motion.

Through a National Endowment for the Arts grant, the University is staging, documenting and checking three solos from choreographer Jean Erdman, a prominent dancer and choreographer in the 1940s-60s. Nationally, Halloran says there is a push to document her work, and the best way to do that is through Labanotation.

Two of the Erdman solos being performed at the concert have been notated, but the scores have not been checked – which is part of the grant. The third solo is being notated this semester and will include the University and the soloist in the copyright.

As part of the process, three guest artists have come to the University to work with students as they prepare the dances and Labanotation.

While his program has received four NEA grants in the last 10 years, Halloran says the competition is getting tougher. Only 40 grants were awarded this year to colleges, universities and professional dance companies.

“We are very fortunate at the University of Idaho. We have a good program that is getting recognition,” says Halloran.

He adds once he received the grant and Erdman specialists came to Idaho to take a look at the performers in anticipation of the Labanotation, he was pleased with impression Idaho dancers made on the guest artists.

“Everyone enjoyed working with our dancers,” says Halloran. “It feels great that they have entrusted us to do this; we are unique here at the University that we can do projects like this.”

He hopes the University can work towards more projects involving Labanotation, to eventually become a center for the study on the West Coast.

Another aspect to the grant is taking the show on the road and using Idaho students in Moscow Junior High classrooms. University students are working with middle schoolers to teach movement and Labanotation, using one of Erdman’s solos. Students are interpreting the dances on their own and will be invited to see Erdman’s choreography on Dec. 3.

The fall concert will take place Dec. 3 and 4 at 7:30 p.m. in the Hartung Theatre. Tickets are available through the University ticket office or at the door.