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MFA dance project ‘Cornering a Hare’ aims to combine ideas, challenge stereotypes

Courtesy of Evan Dawson

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“Even a hare will bite when it is cornered.” 

That Chinese proverb served as a source of inspiration for Paige Phillips, a graduate student in Ohio State’s Department of Dance.

Phillips is slated to perform her final project, “Cornering a Hare,” Thursday through Saturday at the OSU Urban Arts Space downtown as part of an event series titled “Ten Big Ideas.” 

The series is a season of MFA dance projects put on by the class of 2013 MFA dance candidates.

The main idea of the performance is to combine the ideas behind various religions and show the similarities between them, Phillips said.

“I’m hoping (the audience) will stop and think about it, (how to) challenge stereotypes and binaries … dancers who are highly trained with performers who are barely trained, how do you put these two together?” Phillips said. 

Phillips said she hopes the performance will allow people to expand their perspective on religions.

“I personally think they have beautiful things together, one religion is not better than the other,” she said. “I want to draw people closer together rather than push them away.”

Phillips has spent the last three years working on the project. She said visual art had a big influence on her initial brainstorming sessions. 

“I’m mainly interested in sculptures and 3-D objects,” Phillips said. “Performance art … is interested in documenting the movement of bodies.”

Phillips said her choreography in the piece is called “post-modern aesthetic,” which rejects modern dance choreography.

“It’s blending (artistic disciplines) together,” she said. “Everything in the piece is new movement that my dancers and I worked to find together. It can be whatever you want it to be.”

Two artists were involved in the project: Michael Ambron, an MFA candidate in art, who produced a 40-by-30-foot painting for the show, and sculptor and performance artist Evan Dawson, who is also a lecturer in the Department of Art, who designed several costumes and the mouse ears for the dancers to wear in “Cornering a Hare.”

The performance will be looping four dances simultaneously. These pieces are called “Cornering a Hare,” “Nurses and the Prince,” “May That We Be Inspired by the Light” and “Circling the Promised Land.”

Phillips said the performances last an hour and a half, with the four pieces occurring at the same time. 

“To the audience it’s going to feel like people are coming over and over again. They don’t have to come on time or stay, they can leave whenever,” Phillips said.

Leigh Lotocki, communications coordinator at OSU Urban Arts Space, said the space serves Phillips’ purposes well because of her affiliation with the dance department at OSU and the visual art in the performance.

“Our space is good for Paige. She’s using performance art, live movement and art that all seem to come together nicely,” Lotocki said.
Lotocki expects the crowd in the 10,000-square-foot space to be a good size, but the size will change depending on the night of the performance.

“We’re not anticipating a whole group at once, it’ll be a transitory experience where they’ll come at their own pace,” Lotocki said. “We might have a big crowd traveling through or it will be solitary experience for some.”

Audra Banfield, a first-year in exploration, said the performance will be a changed perspective.

She said the integration of sound in this installation would be a “different view” since art generally is only accompanied by silence. 

Admission is free to the public. The opening performance is scheduled for Thursday from 6:30-8 p.m. The Urban Arts Space is located at 50 W. Town St.

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