On January 23rd and 24th, 2009, the Dance Company of Middlebury presented STAND, an evening of work under the direction of Middlebury College Artist-In-Residence Leyya Tawil. STAND demonstrated a diverse stylistic range in contemporary dance through the work of choreographers Tawil, visiting guest artist Boris Willis and San Francisco-based artist Isabelle Sjahsam. The student ensemble of six included Caroline Rucker '09, Elizabeth Boles '10, Alena Giesche '10, Catherine Miller '11, Jeremy Cline '11,and Omar Carmical '12. Deb Sivigny, a guest artist in the Theater Program’s Costume Shop and a Middlebury graduate herself, designed original costumes for Tawil’s work. Lights for the evening were designed by the Dance Program’s own Jennifer Ponder.
Tawil created two works for the program. The first, a duet entitled Radar, was performed by Caroline Rucker and Omar Carmical to an original score by Detroit-based violinist Mike Khoury and tape-music artist Andrew Coltrane. The fifteen-minute duet was an intense physical exploration of distance, patience and hope. The dancers brought a focused professionalism to the work that deepened with every performance. Tawil also performed her own solo, Grace on a Friday Night, to an original score by new music composers Mazen Kerbaj (Beirut), Franz Hautzinger (Austria) and Mark Gergis (Oakland).
Boris Willis, a guest artist in the Dance Program during the Fall 2008, created a new 10-minute work for the ensemble. This is not about the War was a response to his experiences living as an artist in Washington D.C. in the post-September 11 climate. Audiences responded enthusiastically to the work’s athleticism and the dancers’ power.
During her brief 10-day residency, San Francisco-based choreographer Isabelle Sjahsam created a 30-minute work, Standing Mother, a feminized version of the Stabat Mater, a thirteenth century Roman Catholic hymn. Sjahsam selected seven musical versions of the Stabat Mater by three different composers to support her dance theater poem. The quartet (Geische, Miller, Cline and Boles) performed with classic and contemporary dance skill, absurdist theatricality and a keen musicality. Sjahsam’s celebration of goddess culture, which plays out through scenes of sacrifice, frolicking and healing, was a stunning example of postmodern dance theater.
The Company’s January premiere at Middlebury’s Mahaney Center for the Arts was met with great enthusiasm from the students, faculty/staff and off-campus community in attendance. The next morning, the Dance Company of Middlebury including the cast of six, Tawil and Technical Director Jennifer Ponder, flew to the Czech Republic for a residency at CESTA (Cultural Exchange Station in Tabor) in Tabor. During a cold week in residence we rehearsed and explored the historic town and arts community. Tawil offered a workshop in contemporary dance to the professional dance community of Tabor, assisted by student members of DCM. The company performed STAND at the Spectrum Theater in the neighboring city of Sezimovo Usti II, co-produced by CESTA, Spektrum Theatre and DCM. The 300-seat theater was filled and the Company was warmly received by the Czech Republic audiences. Before leaving the mystical country, the Company spent a day in Prague visiting castles, cathedrals and museums.