Synapse Residency Redefines Dance Space
April 06, 2018
by Elise Goitia '18
Climbing on staircases. Tiptoeing across Round Room Tables. Dancing in the lobby outside of Harbach Theatre. These are just some of the ways Knox dancers showed what they learned from the Synapse Arts Dance Residency.
The Knox College Dance Program hosted Synapse Arts, a Chicago-based company that focuses on making dances that respond to non-traditional performance locations.
The residency offered a week filled with master classes and workshops, which culminated in a series of site-specific dance pieces that 19 students performed throughout Knox College's Ford Center for Fine Arts.
A site-specific work often includes elements from the site itself, wherein the elements can include architectural designs, sounds generated in the site, or adapting how the space is used in day-to-day life.
"The purpose of site-specific performances, to me, means an intentional rediscovery of a location," said Bridget McCarthy '18. "It involves exploring different aspects of a space, considering their typical uses, and doing some work to rethink those spatial assumptions."
"My experience has been nothing short of incredible," commented post-baccalaureate fellow Tevin Liao '17. "Ever since the residency ended, there has been one thing that has stuck with me, and that is that pedestrian movement is and can also be dance."
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To prepare for the performance, students put together some choreography while experimenting with improvisation, specifically concerning movement that involves the spaces around them.
For instance, dance students experimented with the lighting controls in the Round Room along with dancing, altering the space "not only with their dancing but also with making choices where the audience would be in relation to the dancers," said Artistic Director Rachel Damon of Synapse Arts.
"These students are so great, so engaged," added Damon. "Everybody's been really forthcoming with their ideas, but also respectful of blending the many ideas that come out in our discussions and improvisations."
McCarthy added that the Synapse Residency was just one in a "long line of incredible opportunities that I would not have without a Knox education."
"The big thing here is that I definitely wouldn't be a dancer without Knox," she said. "The residency has reaffirmed that there's a place for art and exploration in every part of life, which makes it easier for me to think about my future as I look for jobs that are not always directly related to creating what I want to create."
Damon hopes that students' greatest takeaway from the week was that "dance can happen anywhere."
"Having done the sort of work where you're following impulses and making choices in the moment is so essential to adulthood that I think that's a necessary toolbox to have, whether or not dance is your focus," said Damon.