Northampton Academy of Music Hosts the Five College Dance And Music
By Risalat Khan '13, Managing News Editor
Last Friday and Saturday, March 5-6, the College Choral Society, Orchestra and Five College Theater and Dance Department came together to perform a variety of dances and Vivaldi’s “Gloria” at the Northampton Academy of Music.

The performance featured five acts: “Not So, Alone,” featuring music composed by the College’s Chair of Music Eric Sawyer, choreographed by Professor of Theater and Dance Wendy Woodson and performed by Akihiro Maeda ’10 and Associate Professor of Music David Schneider.

The next three, “Interplay… in G Minor,” “Dumped” and “Shifts” were the result of collaborative work across the Five Colleges, and the final piece, “Gloria” was choreographed by the acclaimed Mark Morris, staged by Marjorie Folkman and accompanied by the Amherst Choral Society and Orchestra.

“Gloria in excelsis Deo” (Latin for “Glory to God in the highest”), or just “Gloria” as commonly referenced, is the title and beginning of a very popular hymn. Gloria is accepted as a classic and sacred piece of music, and several variations of it were written by the Venetian Baroque composer and famous violinist Antonio Vivaldi.

What made this performance unique was the combination of dance and live music, an idea that came about after a conversation between Mallorie Chernin, Director of the Amherst Choral Music Program and Jim Coleman, Chair of the Five College Theater and Dance Department.

“I had never been to a performance of dance with live music before, and it adds a very special dimension to the dance,” said Chernin. “When I mentioned this to Jim Coleman … he said he had never been to a live music and dance event either! That floored me and made me realize that for many of us this could be a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

However, the reason for this being so uncommon is perhaps that it is so difficult to accomplish.“The two biggest challenges of providing live music for dancers are those of tempo and consistency,” explained Chernin. “Since the dancers prepared using a CD, which never changes, we had to adapt to the tempo of the CD. Any minute changes would affect the dancers, who have to make sure they match the music. It leaves a bit to chance!”

The Five College Theater and Dance Department conceived the idea for the concert, and applied for and received a grant to host the event. Amherst and the other colleges were requested to participate.

This collaborative effort provided performers an opportunity to work with people they normally would not.

Emma Buchsbaum ’12 recounted her experience, “I play violin in the orchestra, and even though we just had a major concert the weekend before, I think we all enjoyed being able to play with the chorus and the dancers. It’s pretty unusual for us to work with dancers, and I think that was a new experience for a lot of people that we all enjoyed.”

The dancers, who had been rehearsing for weeks, echoed this appreciation for collaborative work, according to Kellye Unthank ’10, who danced in “Shifts.”

“Most of the people were from Mount Holyoke, so I was introduced to the strong Mount Holyoke dance program and I was honored to work with such beautiful dancers,” said Unthank. “This experience taught me the value of teamwork in dancing, and that other people are counting on you to do your best.”

The venue was special too — a restored 19th-century opera house that is a landmark in the town of Northampton. Many famous performers, among them Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Harry Houdini, have graced its stage. “It took me a while to find Houdini’s trapdoor, but I thought it was really cool,“ said Women’s Chorus president Marithe Gutierrez ’11 about the trapdoor under the stage that Houdini had cut out for his act.

“It was so old and fabulous! I went exploring — the staircases are pretty narrow and their dressing rooms looked like they were out of some vaudeville movie from the 1920s or something,” echoed singer Jessica Norworth ’13. “It wasn’t ideal for acoustics, but I think we pulled it together enough that it was okay, even with that drawback.”

Issue 18, Submitted 2010-03-10 05:13:32