Breath Bound graces Stepping Stone Theater


David J Turner

Photo by David Sievert.

Izzy Gravano

Macalester’s Theater and Dance Department hosted the annual Fall Dance Concert entitled Breath Bound on Nov. 9 and 10. As the new dance building is still under construction, the performances were held at Stepping Stone Theater in St. Paul. Breath Bound included five pieces—two choreographed by Theater and Dance faculty, three by students—each 10 to 20 minutes long.

The show began with faculty member Jill Lile’s piece—an eclectic, fast paced work with six dancers entitled “Ride it Out.” Set to Philip Glass’ “String Quartet No. 5 Movement 3,” the choreography matched the music with angular, suspending positions. Aleah Wong ’22, a dancer in “Ride it Out,” said that the piece dealt with “impulse and power, and how [dancing] can’t be constrained.”

The dancers had an anticipatory energy that matched this sense of impulse. “My entrance on stage was a giant, partnered leap that was supposed to evoke imagery of a comet being launched across the sky,” said Wong. “I think our dancing embodied the wild expressiveness of storms that manifest in nature and within us.”

The second piece, “We Were Born Soft,” was choreographed and danced solo by Toan Thanh Doan ’19. The work began with silence as Doan stood still on the floor of the theater before slowing making his way on the stage. Eventually, a mix of percussion and chants by Vietnamese folk musician Ngô Hồng Quang matched the slow pace of the dance. The stillness of the work added power to the movements as the purpose and specificity of each step was extremely gripping.

Photo by David Sievert.

Doan’s commitment to the dance was apparent. Even the placement of his gaze throughout appeared to be a part of the choreography. Invoking feelings of peace and tranquility, yet also tension, the dance made the most sense once it was finished. I found myself searching for meaning in the minute details while Doan performed. When the piece ended, I was left feeling a sense of balance and contentment despite not knowing the intended meaning behind the movements.

The third piece, “Shallow Breath,” was choreographed by three students: Mary Mailand ’19, Tumelo Khupe ’20 and Nteranya Arnold Sanginga ’19. In a footnote to the piece, the choreographers wrote: “the human being is composed of mind, body and soul.” This was presumably a concept they wanted the audience to keep in mind throughout the work. Mailand, Khupe and Sanginga performed the piece themselves, dressed in unitards that matched their skin tones.

The intimate dynamic between the dancers seemed to be the focal point of the movements as the three mirrored each other with acrobatic movements and tense, connective steps. A combination of percussive sounds by multiple artists set a primal tone for calculated, sharp phrases.

The final student-led number of the performance was choreographed by Linnea Fox ’19. Entitled “how I hold you,” the piece explored the complications of friendships and relationships. A more classic contemporary style of work, the tone remained soft and romantic throughout as it was set to a series of instrumental phrases of music. Fox’s inspiration came from discussions with her dancers about “loved ones in the past and the ways in which we support ourselves and are supported in relationships,” she said.

Fox wanted to explore how “relationships can be burdensome yet rewarding, and sometimes require more internal reflection than we allow ourselves.” Fox worked closely with her dancers, using their personal experiences as tools to develop the work. Fox realized that “this piece went far beyond [herself], and provided support and healing to the [the dancers] as well.”

The last piece of the program, choreographed by Professor Patricia Brown, was called “Bound to Freedom.” Accompanied by Carlos Santana’s lively percussion set entitled “Jingo Lo Ba,” the upbeat ensemble had an intense energy that filled the entire theater. The most infectious part of the piece was the joy bursting from each dancer, and they seem to honestly be having fun on stage. This added an additional level of vibrancy to the dance. The dancers made it clear through their movements and presence that they were there to share their love for dance, and that is what instills inspiration in the audience.

Breath Bound was a reminder of the immense capabilities of our peers as the creativity and passion given in the performance was nothing short of inspiring. The concert showcased talents of both students and faculty members, reminding us that the Theater and Dance Department remains strong as they wait for the new building to open. The Spring 2019 Theater and Dance Production will take place on Apr. 25-28 and May 2-4 in the new Theater and Dance building.