Ursinus College Dance Company to present Motion, Timbre, & Rhythm
Performances are November 16, 17, and 18 in Ursinus’s Lenfest Theater in the Kaleidoscope Performing Arts Center. The Thursday, November 16, performance will be immediately followed by a talkback, during which audience members will be invited to listen to the choreographers and designers speak about the process of creating each of the six works.
Motion, Timbre, & Rhythm, a collection of pieces that explore various aural textures and theoretical concepts through a wide range of movement vocabularies, is being staged as the Ursinus College Dance Company’s (UCDC) fall 2023 concert. Performances are November 16, 17, and 18 in Ursinus’s Lenfest Theater in the Kaleidoscope Performing Arts Center.
Motion, Timbre, & Rhythm is produced by interdisciplinary tap dance artist and scholar Michael J. Love, an assistant professor of dance at Ursinus. With a distinct focus on American vernacular cultures, it is a celebration of the histories of some of these forms—rooted, vernacular jazz dance; rhythm tap dance; Afro-modern and Umfundalai; and step and body percussion in the tradition of The Divine Nine. Members and guests of the company will remain committed to community tradition and legacy as they discover choreographic possibilities.
“As we continue to work to equip our students to enter their respective fields as creative thinkers and artist-citizens who have the skills and knowledge to build a more culturally diverse and just world, we want to be sure to continue our commitment to engage our community in our honoring, studying, and practicing of these—and other—forms,” Love said.
Motion, Timbre, & Rhythm will feature original works by acclaimed Philadelphia-based dance artist Sophiann M. Moore, who has founded and directs The Reclamation Dance Project, and Emanuel “Manny” Chacon, who toured for over six years as a company member with the award-winning ensemble, Step Afrika!
Additionally, Professor of Dance Karen Clemente, director of the Ursinus dance program, has collaborated with William F. Heefner Chair and Professor of Music Holly J. Hubbs on an original piece to feature live music. The concert will also feature original choreography by Love and students Chris Gerrow ’26 and Molly Sherman ’24, who have each spent the semester engaged in rigorous artistic research and development processes.
“We are especially proud that our concert this fall will feature a number of students from programs and majors across the college in addition to our incredible dance major and minor students,” Love said, noting that the cast is made up of students who major in and study theater and the arts, the social sciences, and various subjects in science and technology.
Ursinus student groups such as Seismic Step, Escape Velocity, and Breakaway are also represented, and there are a number of students who are working on the production in a technical capacity as part of the deck run and wardrobe crews and the stage management team.
Each piece in the concert responds to a specific issue, concept, phenomenon, or cultural history. Moore’s original piece, Agency, debuting a year after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, ruminates on the meaning and importance of having autonomy over one’s own body. The work comments on the impact of the historic overturning of the landmark Supreme Court decision and offers methods for reclaiming personal agency from outside forces.
Chacon’s Behind The Mask celebrates the art form of stepping—a highly energetic, polyrhythmic, percussive dance form created by historically African American fraternities and sororities. It chronicles the journey of those in the cast who have had to simultaneously navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and the college experience.
Clemente’s and Hubbs’s Swingin’ at Duke’s Place is a tribute to the Swing-era jazz greats and the incredible artistry that flourished in the ballrooms of Harlem, New York, in the 1930s and 1940s, honoring the creative genius of Frankie Manning, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Norma Miller, Leonard Reed, and Willie Bryant.
With choreography and movement score, video projections, and sound design for Getting to paradise is gonna take a lot of work., Love and his cast have devised a performance meditation and a “rhythm dreaming process” for imagining an “elsewhere” of liberatory possibilities while turning to Black American traditions for instructions on “getting to paradise.”
Lastly, students Gerrow and Sherman have each set works that speak to their individual passions as emerging artists in the field. While Gerrow’s solo nods to movement forms such as voguing and waacking as it revels in the kinetic potential of music set at especially quick tempos, Sherman’s ensemble work stands as an emotionally layered individual and communal reflection on her formative years as an Ursinus student living, studying, and creating dance in Collegeville.
“Ultimately, we hope that those who join us in the Lenfest will leave feeling inspired to learn more about some of these dance forms that have laid the cultural groundwork for many aspects of American life,” Love said.
For tickets, visit ursinus.edu/tickets. The Thursday, November 16, performance will be immediately followed by a talkback, during which audience members will be invited to listen to the choreographers and designers speak about the process of creating each of the six works.