Kylee Smith’s paternal ancestors are from Abbeville, S.C., famously known as the birthplace and deathbed of the Confederacy. A distant uncle of hers was lynched in the town square and her great-grandfather was the first African-American deputy sheriff in the county.
From those family ties and stories, Smith, a second-year in dance, was inspired to choreograph her piece “Bloodlines,” which will be featured in the Ohio State Department of Dance’s spring concert, “Absolute Existence,” which features 15 undergraduate and graduate performers.
“I wanted to say something about these thoughts and these feelings that I have about my ancestry, and it came to fruition in this piece,” Smith said. “It’s not literal components per se, but my movement and my emotion is coming from a place that is inspired by these things that I am working on in myself.
“I have a love for dance, but also written and spoken word,” said Smith, who also has a minor in creative writing.
The score for her piece is mostly vocal, starting with the gospel song, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” and then moving into recordings of her father telling stories and Smith speaking to the audience live.
“I just want (the audience) to feel the emotional place that this is coming from for me,” Smith said. “It’s very raw for me.”
Just as Smith is exploring her heritage through dance, Gabriella Wiltz, a second-year in dance, is exploring her own creative process.
“I think the thing I like most about dancing, especially at this point, is I can learn so much about myself,” Wiltz said. “And I think this piece is an example of that because it’s a glimpse for me into how I work.”
Wiltz is the choreographer of the piece “Affinity III,” which will be performed by a trio of dancers. It’s first piece Wiltz has choreographed in college.
Her inspiration for the piece, she said, was from the feelings and images she gets when listening to music. The song the piece is set to is “Pendulum” by FKA twigs.
“When listening to the song, I felt like it was easy to be put into a trance,” Wiltz said. “I told my dancers to act like they were being controlled by someone or manipulated by something. There’s a lot of play between the music causing dancers to do different things.”
In graduate students Tammy Carrasco and Sarah Levitt’s duet, “Semi-Formal,” the similarities of the two dance majors are explored.
“We’re both small, sort of strong women, and we both have dark curly hair and fair skin so we thought there might be some content stylistically in our physical experience and the fact that we move a lot alike,” Levitt said.
Levitt said she and Carrasco have been dancing all their lives and concentrate on modern style.
“We move very quick and I think because we’re smaller, we learned how to make ourselves appear larger on stage at a young age,” Levitt said. “I think there’s some movement preferences in that, in moving quickly, getting on and off the floor quickly and trying to move as big as we can.”
The spring concert runs Thursday through Saturday at Barnett Theatre in Sullivant Hall. Performances are every day at 8 p.m. with an additional 3 p.m. performance Saturday. Tickets are $15 for the general public, and $10 for OSU students, faculty, staff and senior citizens.