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Dance Showcase 2013 shines spotlight on BU talent

The Boston University Dance Theater was full of movement Friday and Saturday when BU’s dance program held its Dance Showcase 2013 at the Buick Street theater.

The showcase included 10 pieces, four of which were premieres. It featured the work of several experienced choreographers and dancers, some of whom were resident faculty, and others who were guests of the university, including improvisers Jeremy Finch, Liz Roncka and New York dance company Amalgamate.

Judith Chaffee, head of the movement department in the School of Theatre, danced in choreographer Lynn Modell’s energetic piece entitled “Another Chair (Dance).” Chaffee described the experience of being in this quintet as a unique milestone because it brought her together with people she had not had the chance to work with for a long time, including Micki Taylor-Pinney, current director of the Department of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.

“Micki, Lynn and myself were all a part of a dance company called Boston Dance Collective … and we were a prominent dance company in Boston,” Chaffee said. “So to be rehearsing with these wonderful women again was exhilarating. It felt like family.”

She also noted that the experience was “very special” because it was her “first time performing in a dance context since 2000.”

Chaffee and Pinney are just a couple of examples of the experienced members that performed as a part of the annual BU concert. The pieces that made up the rest of the program matched the level of expression that “Another Chair (Dance)” exquisitely portrayed.

Each work highlighted a different kind of dance, including aerobics, choreographed pieces and improvisational pieces. Naturally, each evoked a different kind of emotion from the general audience. Paula Josa-Jones, a dancer, choreographer, dance therapist and former teacher in the BU Opera Program, performed her own solo entitled “Speak,” a moving piece that made use of dynamic body movements and gestures.

“[Josa-Jones] had an outline of what she was doing and knew spatially where she was going, but the movement in between wasn’t necessarily choreographed in the way that [Modell’s] piece was,” Chaffee said.

Improvisation was also featured in the premiere of a piece entitled “For Now,” a dance and collaboration by Boston-based dancers Liz Roncka and Jeremy Finch.

Chaffee’s own solo performance, “Don’t Throw It In The W.C.” was similarly improvised and drew on her training in commedia dell’arte, an Italian theater form of improvisation.

“How I improvise with the audience is different each time,” Chaffee said.

Chaffee said her own theater background has had a clear impact on her work, not only in the pieces that she herself performs or choreographs, but also in the way she teaches dance.

“Even when I’m teaching dance technique, I teach more from a sense of internal breath and rhythm than from the shape or from what [the actors] ought to look like,” she said.

Chaffee said that her love for dance and theater — and more specifically her passion for teaching movement to actors — grew during her time in graduate school at Smith College.

“I like creating dance and theater and being in on the teaching,” she said. “I love teaching, and I like training dancers. I’m more interested in why they’re doing what they’re doing rather than, say, how many pirouettes they can do.”

The showcase highlighted not only the talent of different dancers and dance companies, but also the talent of the faculty. Moreover, the concert raised greater awareness of the professional program BU faculty has created and provides to its students.

“The faculty [teaches] these skills,” Chaffee said. “But this is also what the faculty do in their creative lives. It’s almost as if [this Showcase] is why we do what we do … We’re not trying to make stars. We’re trying to bring out the artistry in each of the students that we have.”

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