The performance consists of three works: “Nonet” and “Stark Fields and a Promise,” dance works choreographed by professor of dance Sandra Mathern with music by ETHEL, and “Spheres of Influence,” a solely instrumental piece performed by ETHEL.
“Nonet” features three trios, each distinct in quality and tone, but sharing movement motifs and choreographic ideas. The fourth section combines these trios together, “creating serendipitous moments of relationality” states Mathern. The inspiration for this piece draws largely from the Americana style of the music, but incorporates varying amounts of athleticism.
The second work, “Spheres of Influence,” is a composition with three sections. The musical ideas influence one another, and the various combinations, or “spheres” of instruments - various solos, duos, and trios, influence the remaining instruments. The inspiration for “Spheres of Influence” comes from the idea that our identity is, in part, formed by those around us as our actions and decisions are often determined by how we were raised, the culture we grew up in, and the influence of our friends.
Lastly, the work “Stark Fields and a Promise,” was deeply inspired by the quality and personality of the sound, as a starting place for movement. “The music conjures up stark landscapes and is melancholy, which is reflected in movement vocabulary and imagery,” stated Mathern. She welcomes the audience’s interpretation and looks forward to finding out what they see within the piece. This piece also incorporates video imagery by Chris Faur, director of collaborative technologies for the fine arts, that is portrayed on the dancer’s bodies and on the space to add another element to the work.
“Both dance pieces utilize the personality and quality of the sound as a starting place for the movement imagery and quality,” commented Mathern. She is pleased with the combination of live music and choreography and says that the goal is not only to listen to the music or watch the dance pieces but also to see them together and how the combination influences and impacts the meaning of each.
Ralph Farris of ETHEL finds the experience exciting, stating, “In so many ways music and dance go hand in hand - one begs for the other. It’s an absolutely natural pairing.”
This performance is part of a culmination of ETHEL’s three-year residency at Denison and the relationship that has formed between them and the Dance Department. As Vail Series director Michael Morris noted, “During their residency at Denison, ETHEL visited dance classes, providing ‘live’ music for the dancers. A relationship grew out of those visits, and this project is the latest outgrowth of that relationship.
“This is exemplary of what the Vail Series is all about, for it is programmed creatively with the mindful pursuit of learning across traditional academic boundaries,” said Morris.