December 22, 2000

The Dance Company of Middlebury to Begin Tour on Jan. 24

MIDDLEBURY, Vt.--The Dance Company of Middlebury's (DCM) annual tour will begin at Middlebury College with performances of "Riding the Wild Ephemerid" on Wednesday, Jan. 24 and Thursday, Jan. 25 at 8 p.m. in the Center for the Arts Dance Theatre on South Main Street (Route 30). During its tour, the ensemble of seven dancers and four musicians will present workshops, lectures, demonstrations, and formal and informal concerts in a variety of locations in Vermont, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island in January and early February.

Under the artistic direction of Penny Campbell, Middlebury College dance faculty member, and Michael Chorney, a composer and Middlebury College music director for dance, all members of the ensemble have been training in the art of improvisational performance since September of this year. Along with DCM's dancers, the group's four professional and student musicians-one current Middlebury College senior, one recent graduate, and two professionals from the band viperHouse-as well as DCM's lighting designer, Jennifer Ponder, have all made improvisation an integral part of their practice sessions.

According to Campbell, much of the delight in observing improvisation springs from watching the artists at work crafting the elements of their art form?initiating material, following through, coping with unexpected developments, and making choices

"Live performance of any kind is effervescent, evaporating as quickly as it appears, lingering only in memory or the altered state of film or video. But improvisational performance is even more ephemeral, disappearing like a wild thing never to be seen again. With no predetermined score or content, improvisation is the most unpredictable art. Its practitioners must be skilled artists able to create work on the spot and ready for anything that might occur," said Campbell.

Immediately following its Middlebury concerts, DCM will travel to Massachusetts to teach and perform at the Cambridge School in Weston, the Dana Hall School in Wellesley, Boston University, Tufts University in Medford, and Thorne's Market Gallery in Northampton, where dancers will appear in a series organized by Middlebury alumna Jennifer Kayle, an independent choreographer and dancer working in western Massachusetts. The group will also appear at Rhode Island College in Providence. In some locations, a discussion will follow a master class and formal performance. In others, an exchange with resident students will make it possible not only to show work but also to view how they approach dance-making themselves. Events in Massachusetts and Rhode Island will take place from Jan. 29 through Feb. 3.

The dancers who are members of this year's Dance Company of Middlebury are seniors Caroline Bodkin of Salt Lake City, Utah; Sarah Garcia of Guilford, Conn.; Annie Kloppenberg of Wellesley, Mass.; Bill Manka of Southington, Conn.; Katrina O'Brien of Mt. Vernon, N.Y.; Alison Robinson of Saugerties, N.Y.; and Olivia Whitman of Glens Falls, N.Y. The musician members are saxophonist Darren Case of Kennebunkport, Maine; recent alumnus percussionist Jared Baird of Akron, Ohio; and viperHouse members saxophone player Michael Chorney of Lincoln, Vt., and trombone and double bass player Robinson Morse of Salisbury, Vt.

The Dance Company of Middlebury reinvents itself each year with a new artistic director, a new cast, and a new creative focus. This tour marks the third time in 15 years that the company has configured itself as an improvisational ensemble of musicians and dancers under Campbell's direction. Designed as a for-credit course to give serious dance students a taste of professional dance life, DCM operates much like a small dance company, developing and touring performance work. After auditions in the fall, an intensive period of rehearsals under the direction of a faculty or guest artist director culminates in on-campus concerts and a short tour.

As varied as the company itself, DCM's tours over the last 10 years have taken the group to Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and New York City.

During the long preparation process, members of the company train for their dual roles as composer or choreographer and performer, all the while preparing to demonstrate those roles simultaneously and in full view of their paying audience. "Many rehearsals look more like performance than practice. Each piece asks something different of its performers and teaches some new bit of wisdom, offering opportunities to stretch out, take artistic risks, find new forms, new movement, new sound," says Campbell.

Tickets for the Middlebury performances of "Riding the Wild Ephemerid" on Jan. 24-25 are available beginning Jan. 10 at the Center for the Arts box office, open Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. Reservations are required for a pre-performance dinner at 6 p.m. on Jan. 24 at Rehearsals Cafe. To order tickets or make dinner reservations, call the box office 802-443-6433. Tickets are $5 general admission and $4 for senior citizens. For information about other tour engagements, contact the dance program office at (802) 443-5245 or 5874, or