An inspired approach to dance

The stories behind some of the performances in USF's "Drawing the Line'' are as intriguing as the choreography.

Published February 16, 2006

To create pieces for their upcoming concert, University of South Florida choreographers drew inspiration from John Steinbeck and Hurricane Katrina and got some help from entertainers at Busch Gardens.

The eight works in the USF annual spring dance performance, titled "Drawing the Line," also include a familiar classical ballet, two student pieces and a new work by one of USF's most successful dance alumni.

Faculty member Jeanne Travers said she created Talisman while watching the primordial struggle of human beings versus nature during Katrina last year.

"While we were all getting all that information about Hurricane Katrina, I started thinking about natural disasters, about the tsunami and other disasters," Travers said. "And that's really what the dance is based on, how we have all this energy coming at us and we defend ourselves as modern warriors."

Travers' piece, which features original music from composers Ahmed Ban Dhani and Ruggero Taje, is new. But before summer comes around, it will be internationally known. In May, Travers will take the piece, and its six student dancers, to Italy, where she has been invited to present it at a performing arts festival in Milan.

Talisman is one of several new works on the program. Guest choreographer Donna Silva has created an Irish-flavored piece titled Tides of Carrigaholt, and Andy Noble has developed a new work for 12 dancers called Boundary.

For Tides of Carrigaholt, USF enlisted the aid of a newly arrived troupe of Irish dancers who are working at Busch Gardens. They showed the student dancers subtleties of the form and made significant enhancements to the work with simple suggestions of nuance.

Noble, a USF graduate who's now based in Washington state but is back at USF as a guest faculty member, was given the assignment of creating a work for 12 dancers.

"I had an idea for a funny piece, but I auditioned these kids and they just didn't scream 'funny dancers,'" Noble said. "Maybe they are, but I didn't see it in auditions. So I created a movement piece instead."

That new piece, Boundary, explores the importance of social limits in our lives, and how we overcome those limitations.

Student choreographers have created two new pieces. Deana Jansen and Ricky Ruiz offer a duet, Crossed, a fast-paced modern/jazz piece that explores sexual tension. Jennifer Jones' Give Up, Give Out is a solo contemporary ballet performed to a guitar piece by Tuck Andress.

Not-so-new works on the program include My Brother's Keeper, a trio based on Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men.

Choreographer Lynne Wimmer has restaged this piece, one of her early works. She's now known for pieces that combine dance, music and film, but My Brother's Keeper - despite its narrative framework - is a pure movement piece that explores the relationships among migrant workers.

The one classic work on the program is a divertissement from Paquita, created in the 19th century by dance pioneer Marius Petipa and still frequently performed by ballet companies around the world.