Continuing the exciting 2016-17 dance season at CU Boulder is “Boneless,” a showcase of two works by MFA students intent on uncovering who we really are underneath our society’s thick layers of commercialism and social standards. These two works, incorporating contemporary dance, animal instinct and skateboarding, come to CU’s Charlotte York Irey Theatre Oct. 21-23.
Both works in “Boneless” use richly physical movement to peer beneath the surface of human existence to discover who we are without social expectations and commercialization.
“I’ve always been troubled by social constructs—things that tell us how we should look or feel or behave in order to be in alignment with what’s expected,” says Rachel Dodson, an MFA candidate in dance who choreographed a piece in “Boneless.” “I got curious about what happens if we strip ourselves of those expectations and give voice to what’s been silenced.”
A sensorial journey investigating the relationship between mind, body and spirit, Dodson’s piece twists and writhes, turning the self inside out to explore one’s inner landscape. In the work, performers play with light and darkness by moving with head lamps and strategically hiding and revealing parts of themselves. Movement alternates between the classical and the primal to represent the animal lurking beneath each of our carefully-curated façades.
During rehearsals, Dodson and her cast of seven dancers used their own personal experiences with times when their families, careers and looks didn’t fit traditional social norms to create their own original movements in the piece.
“The feelings they generated were the same even though their experiences were different,” Dodson says. “The common threads were the feelings they had about their own personal inadequacies and the way that affected their perceptions of themselves.”
Colt Irvin, another MFA student whose work is showcased in “Boneless,” is also interested in who we really are when we leave the noise of the outside world behind. In his piece, he uses contemporary dance and skateboarding to investigate whether brands and advertising have taken away our individuality.
“If you were a skateboarder back in the day, you’d go into a skate shop and buy a board, and that was it,” he says. Now it’s, ‘What shoes and signature clothing line are you wearing, and what does your custom deck look like?’ Now people can make millions of dollars doing something that was invented in the 1970s in Southern California as a way to get to the beach.”
Irvin, an avid skateboarder himself, worries what happens when art forms, including skateboarding, food-making and digital media, aren’t given enough space to thrive in non-commercial ways.
“When business practices take over, you lose the artistic nature of some of these things,” Irvin says.
Irvin’s piece, which features only Irvin himself and his friend and collaborator Aaron Allen, uses skateboards and Skittles to ruminate on the way money sometimes dilutes authenticity.
In the world of dance, it’s unique to see modern dance and skateboarding intertwine—but Irvin is surprised it doesn’t happen more often. He believes they’re more alike than different.
“I think they’re both fueled by what’s happening in the world politically, and they both use the full body in surprising ways,” he says. “Sometimes a trick can be so intricate and detailed, and it takes a lot of discipline to land it. It’s the same thing in dance.”