By Wendell Leafstedt
On Wednesday, Jan. 13 in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel, six dancers performed “Thunder,” an exploration of the connection between sound and the human body. Three guest performers and three students were involved in the hour-long show. Among them was Tatyana Tenenbaum, who composed and choreographed the piece.
The audience was comprised of nearly one hundred people, including Lawrence students, conservatory faculty and Appleton community members. People were asked to sit on the chapel stage, only a few feet from the action.
The beginning of the performance was mysterious. Tenenbaum spoke mechanically in English, making brief, unnatural pauses as she slowly advanced across the stage. Emily Moore and Laurel Snyder, Tenenbaum’s partners, slowly joined in, murmuring to each other. The three twisted together and moved around the stage.
Gradually, they stopped speaking and began humming and singing. The intensity rose and fell continuously; the shapes and sounds they made evolved as the minutes passed. Every so often, the scene changed dramatically in tone. Over the course of the performance, many songs and soundscapes were paired with different body movements.
Three Lawrence students, junior Olivia Gregorich, sophomore Sabrina Conteh and senior Camille Dozier, entered the stage for certain scenes. With the assistance of Lawrence University Instructor of Dance Margaret Paek, they had rehearsed several times with the visiting dancers. They all claimed to have had a wonderful learning experience working on “Thunder.”
Rehearsals for the piece were explorational and free-form. Tenenbaum brought to the table unfamiliar practice techniques, seeking to explore the relationship between dancing and the sounds she makes. For a warm-up activity, dancers would shake and pull each other, reaching for tactile or verbal feedback.
Gregorich said she was surprised to find that “sound is calming” when she moves and dances. In the question and answer session after the performance, many of the dancers commented on how they enjoyed singing and moving more than they thought they would.
Like the rehearsals, no two performances of “Thunder” are the same. Much of it follows a script but even more is improvisation with guidelines. There is a set progression of outfits, singing styles and dance steps, but there is room for the dancers to make their own moves along the way.
As the dancers leapt around stage in sync, one could tell that they had a deep appreciation for this new type of performance. It was harder to appreciate at first, myself being so unfamiliar with this art form, but once the surprise and confusion wore off, it seemed like a very natural form of expression.