German Dance Group To Visit Campus This Week
By Katherine Hillenbrand '12, Managing A&L Editor
Next week, a Berlin-based choreographer, a sound artist/composer and two dancers will be in residency at the College. They will have two performances at the Mead Art Museum and will also teach classes and workshops and meet with students at Amherst and throughout the Five Colleges.

Friederike Plafki, an award-winning German choreographer and dancer, is gaining widespread recognition in Europe. Along with French composer Claude Chassevent, Canadian dancer Catherine Jodoin and Italian dancer Maria Francesca Scaroni, Plafki will perform two pieces: “Külkuhgenese/Coolcowgenesis” and “Dialogues — Trio Variation for a Square.”

Plafki described her solo work as her own version of “evolution, from insects to a refrigerator.” The works deal with time, especially the concept of slowness. In addition to the dance component, the performances also showcase live interactive sound composition. Although the works are strictly choreographed, their foundation is in improvisation and interaction. The composer mixes multiple sources of sound to respond to the dancers’ movements. Heidi Gilpin, Chair of European Studies, noted: “If Claude saw a compositional structure or strategy taking place in the movement, he would integrate that strategy into what he was doing with the sound with extraordinary precision. The work is about generating and sustaining dialogue between the dancers and between the dancers and the sound artist; this dialogue is witnessable in the performance.”

Gilpin first encountered the group in the summer of 2007 at the renowned Palucca School in Dresden, Germany, an undergraduate and graduate performing arts conservatory similar to the Juilliard School in New York. As former dramaturg with choreographer William Forsythe and the Frankfurt Ballet as well as with other dance and performance companies, Gilpin was asked to serve as mentor and dramaturg for Plafki, Chassevent and the team of dancers as they developed one of the pieces they will be performing at the College as part of a competition for choreographers to develop new work. She reflected, “I was very impressed with the strength of the work and with the sophistication of the movement vocabulary. After working with them in Dresden, I wanted to bring them here to expose dancers and students interested in movement and sound performance to the kind of project that Plafki is undertaking.”

Gilpin became interested in Plafki’s work because “it explored a sort of minimalism and precision about time that very few choreographers dare to confront. When I first saw the Dialogues piece being developed, I thought that the perfect location for it would be in a museum space that would highlight the conversation between stasis, movement and the passage of time that is always ongoing on many levels between the visitor and the works of art, and so I thought of the Mead Art Museum as a place in which they could perform these pieces if and when they ever came to Amherst.” Gilpin regards the upcoming performance as “an extraordinary opportunity to reconsider the Mead Art Museum as a space [for viewing] cultural production of a number of kinds, including performance.”

Gilpin has been planning the residency for over a year. She noted the “extraordinary help [received] from the Goethe Institutes in Munich and Boston who together have funded the airfares for all four artists. The President’s Office has also been very generous in helping to coordinate this Five College residency, as well as Five Colleges, Inc., in addition to a number of departments at Amherst, Hampshire and Mount Holyoke Colleges.”

The performances will take place in the Mead on Tuesday, Oct. 5 at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. and will be followed by a 9 p.m. reception in Porter House. Tickets are free, but seating is limited. Reserve tickets by calling (413) 542-2335.

Article revised September 29, 2010.

Issue 04, Submitted 2010-09-29 16:42:44