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April 20, 2010 at 1:13 pm
By Margaret Taylor '10

Last week’s Arena dance performance, BASTE, didn't open with the usual introduction explaining who was going to be dancing and what they were going to do.  Instead, the lights dimmed and a dancer appeared on the stage with a copy of the program.  Then another dancer came along and they fought over it.

That theme of physical comedy wound through the entire evening’s performance.  Dancers interacted with chairs, socks, televisions, each other, and the stage.  The focus of BASTE was not on virtuosic pirouettes and lifts, but on telling a story and making the audience laugh.  Over the course of several numbers, we were treated to the epic saga of one young woman’s quest for a red chenille sock while other dancers fought over chairs, hit on each other, and sneezed.

There were serious acts in BASTE as well.  Claire Brookmeyer ’10 and Elizabeth Tan ’10, the two choreographers, organized this show as part of a special major in dance.  To complete their major, each of them had a professional choreographer work with them one-on-one to design a solo performance for them.  Claire and Elizabeth both performed their solos at BASTE.  The rest of the evening was a collection of the dances the two of them have choreographed over their time at Carleton.

Claire and Elizabeth got a tremendous amount of support from Semaphore to make BASTE possible.  The dancers of the troupe weren’t getting any comps credit for their performance, but they dedicated their time and energy to it anyway.

Many of the acts were developed in an improvisational way – a back-and-forth went on between the choreographers and the dancers as they determined what was going to happen in each of the pieces.  Claire says she was inspired by the antics of Buster Keaton for her work.  Elizabeth used this prompt to develop her “I Wonder…”: “Go into the studio.  You’re five years old.  You’ve never seen a studio before.  Play.”  Collaboratively, they improvised personalities for each of the characters that were to appear onstage.  “It can start from something as simple as ‘I exercise.’  If you draw that out, you can get some weird stuff,” one of the dancers said of the process.

“There is no way we could have done it without each other,” says Elizabeth.