Foot Notes: OSU Dance Downtown

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Music and dance, those two universal human languages, naturally lend themselves to clashing, crossing and combining traditions to create something entirely new.

Ohio State's Department of Dance will make its 11th-annual sojourn down High Street to the Riffe Center this weekend to show "town" what new stuff "gown" has conjured up.

The four world premieres on this year's "Dance Downtown" program, "Remix Culture," gather influences from across the globe and put them onto the Capitol Theatre stage for two nights only.

Appropriately enough, one of the four works is "Down the Road" by choreographer Esther Baker-Tarpaga. Working with the personal contributions of her dancers and live music by composers Olivier Tarpaga and Michael Wall, she has created a work that reflects "dance in the age of Obama."

Inspired by a Max Waldman photograph of Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov frozen in mid-step, Michael Kelly Bruce has choreographed "Let's Dance." In addition to the David Bowie title tune, Bruce uses Ella Fitzgerald singing "Let's Face the Music and Dance" and Peggy Lee's classic rendition of "Is That All There Is?"

When you recall the latter's refrain of "If that's all there is, then let's keep dancing," you realize the pattern emerging here.

Founding member and later artistic director of Dance Forum Taipei, Ming-Lung Yang took his cue from a musical work he used to play for his infant daughter for "No Trace." He has described the seasonal cycle of the work as resembling a sculpture moving through space, leaving vestiges behind.

Musically eclectic, Yang's "No Trace" features "Rothko" - the Joan La Barbara and Gaylord Mowrey work for voices and bowed piano - and "Fragmented Images" by Chinese-American pipa player Wu Man.

Any choreography by Columbus treasure Bebe Miller sparks anticipation, so "What We Remember Is Not What We See" should be a highlight. It's set to music by rap artist Nonchalant, Van Morrison, Donny Hathaway, Hahn Rowe and percussionist Albert Mathias, but also incorporates text by the late physicist Richard P. Feynman and Miller's frequent collaborator Ain Gordon.

Sure to be on display? The relativity of individual perceptions and perspectives, the group dynamics of chaos and cooperation, and Miller's inimitable way of drilling right to the core of our common humanity via movement.

OSU's "Dance Downtown" series has grown to be one of the best ways for Central Ohio to see the jewel of a program that's too often hidden away in Sullivant Hall. If you appreciate local culture, you'll want to get into the "Remix."

Where: Riffe Center Capitol Theatre, Downtown

When: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, May 7-8