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Dance Downtown intertwines art and dance in annual event

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Rachel Freeburg and Anna Vomacka rehearse. Credit: Courtesy of Angelica Bell

Rachel Freeburg and Anna Vomacka rehearse. Credit: Courtesy of Angelica Bell

Ohio State dancers’ strength will be put through fire this weekend as they debut new pieces for their annual Dance Downtown event.

The concert put on by the Department of Dance will include original choreography by faculty members with shorter works by Dave Covey, Mitchell Rose and Norah Zuniga-Shaw, alongside longer pieces by Bebe Miller and Daniel Roberts. Additionally, visiting artist Eddie Taketa will restage Doug Varone’s “Of the Earth Far Below.”

“We could talk and talk but you have to come and see it,” said Taketa, an original “Of the Earth” cast member. “This is an experiential art form. There’s no words that can completely paint the picture.”

About a week before the show, dancers performed a run-through of the full production. “Of the Earth” showcases intense physicality as dancers collide and intertwine. An audience member said, “I feel exhausted just watching that.”

Afterward, “Of the Earth” cast member Madison Girardi, a fourth-year in dance, said the biggest challenge has been building up the endurance for the piece.

“Once the music starts you definitely don’t stop building and dancing at this high intensity level until the music ends 15 minutes later,” she said.

The different pieces offer a diverse collection of dancing that will entertain audience members, Girardi said.

“It’s just a wide range of movement but all of that movement is at this high level of precision and everyone is fully invested in what they’re doing,” she said.

Pieces range from the energized “Of the Earth” to Rose’s humorous “18 Beginnings” to Covey’s collaboration with glass artist Jonathan Capps for “Orb.”

Dori Jenks, external relations coordinator for the Department of Dance, said the variety will be a highlight of the performance.

“With the exception of one work, everything is new,” she said. “I think this year’s concert in particular is everyone really putting themselves out there.”

Many may not realize the strength of the Department of Dance, Jenks said, pointing out that Taketa, Covey and Miller have all received Bessie awards, a high honor in dance.

“We know we have a good football team, what many might not remember is we also have a pretty great arts community,” Jenks said.

“Orb” serves as an example of OSU’s vibrant arts community as it offers a collaboration between the departments of dance and art.

Capps, a graduate student studying glass, said he hoped to fill one remaining dance credit when he began an independent study with Covey. When Covey saw a collection of large glass orbs Capps had made, he quickly suggested collaborating.

“I was like, ‘Rock on, let’s go for it,’” Capps said.

Covey said “Orb” is a “structured improvisation” that focuses on the dancers’ interactions with the orbs and the orbs’ interaction with the lights.

“Each orb picks up each of the lights,” he said. “It makes the dancers think on their feet. They have to make choices every night.”

Dance Downtown will take place in the Capitol Theatre, Riffe Center at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $16.50 for students and $21.50 for the general public, and they can be purchased at the OSU Theatre Box Office.

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