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Master’s students collaborate with dancers for contemporary show

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“Elsewhere” by Ani Javian is one of two performances of “Watch from Here” that will take place at the Urban Arts Space, put on by master of fine arts in dance students.
Credit: Courtesy of Nicole Garlando

One typically thinks of an art gallery as a house of stationary art work — but in downtown Columbus, art comes to life.

Megan Davis and Ani Javian, two Ohio State MFA dance students, will showcase contemporary choreography Thursday through Saturday at the Urban Arts Space.

The showing on Thursday will include a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. and a performance at 7 p.m. Another showing will go on Friday from 6 to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 1 to 2 p.m. Admission to the “Watch From Here: Department of Dance Master of Fine Arts Thesis Concert” at the Urban Arts Space is free.

The live performances will include “Trace Forms,” a performance by Davis, a third-year MFA, and “Elsewhere,” a performance by Javian, another third-year MFA.

“Trace Forms” originated during Davis’ undergraduate studies when she majored in art therapy and found an interest in a process that connected mind and body.

She said she found that connection through drawing and moving.

Davis said “Trace Forms” is a work about process and collaboration — meaning what happened with her dancers during rehearsal behind closed doors.

“I gave them (the dancers) each a sketchbook and we drew in those sketchbooks every rehearsal,” Davis said.

She said she would often give them a prompt to draw from. The dancers would improvise and then later discuss the prompt. She said she and the dancers would invent movement based off of these drawings.

“Trace Forms” will not only involve dancers moving in present time, but also TV screens and two-dimensional artwork mounted to the walls displaying the dancers’ personal narrations and creations during the process.

Davis also created a sound score to “Trace Forms.” These sounds are a culmination of beats from musicians Andrew Bird, Atlas Sound and Swod, as well as sounds one might hear in everyday life.

She said the everyday sounds included people drawing with pencil and marker on paper, and that she liked how the two materials made such distinct sounds on paper.

Davis said by integrating visual art, dance and film in a gallery space, she hopes the audience will be able to see the connection between the art materials and the dance.

Javian said she also shared a collaborative process with her dancers in the creation of “Elsewhere.”

“I would say I’m a director of the group of collaborators,” she said.

“Elsewhere,” a dance that brings to life isolation, seclusion and detachment, began differently for Javian, however

Javian is a second-generation Armenian-American, and comes from a lineage of people who have been displaced from their homes.

“It originated from my interest of ‘home’ … but has evolved and shifted to explore displacement more generally,” she said.

“Elsewhere” will have three parts: dance, sound, and an installation.

Javian said the way the dancers see each other is important.

“I asked them to look past one another instead of seeing the person,” she said. “A lot of it is through focus, what’s seen (and) what’s not seen. What we are inviting the audience to see (and) how visible we are to the audience.”

Javian said the sound by James Lo will have an echoing quality within the high-ceiling gallery of OSU’s Urban Arts Space.

“At times it sounds sort of muted and the amount of distance in between chords is irregular,” she said. “There are voices, chatter and indistinguishable voices in the background. It sounds like it’s elsewhere.”

Javian said that wooden installation by MFA student Leah Frankel gives “Elsewhere” a specific place and time within the gallery.

“In terms of time, I would say it (‘Elsewhere’) has installation time,” Javian said. “There’s not necessarily a beginning, a middle and an end. It’s happening when you enter and it keeps going while you leave. The performance doesn’t loop, it only happens once, but the edges are blurred.”

Javian said she and the others didn’t work with a specific end result in mind.

“Looking at each artist’s contributions created the dance instead of imposing parameters or objectives on what we thought it should be,” Javian said. “We did not force this dance to become something — we learned together what it would be.”

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