“Haunted,” a ModernExtension dance company performance sponsored by Wilson Library’s Rare Book Collection, will combine improv and dance to redefine storytelling this weekend.
The show consists of seven pieces, including two choreographed pieces and two structurally improvised pieces.
Heather Tatreau, faculty advisor of ModernExtension, said this is not the improvisation style most people are familiar with.
“This is highly structured improv,” she said. “It’s like setting out rules to a game. They are very specific, and within those rules, the dancers are allowed to create movement in the moment and respond to each other.”
While most of the dancers have been exposed to improv before, it still took some transitioning.
“For some of the more technical dancers, it can be challenging to let go of some of that in order to think in the moment and not just to mimic what they’re seeing,” Tatreau said.“They have to rely on some skills of composition, such as choreography, putting improv into performance, but doing it all in the moment with the audience in mind.”
UNC Libraries employee Matthew Karkutt is also a choreographer and company member for ModernExtension. He said the show explores how past dancers’ works affect present dancers, which includes learned classical techniques as well as techniques that are broken by improvisation.
Karkutt’s structurally choreographed piece, “Ghost,” was inspired by Viteslav Nezval’s “Abeceda,” or “Alphabet,” a book of poems for each letter of the Latin alphabet.
When “Abeceda” lays open, Nezval’s poem is on one page and Milca Mayerova’s dance interpretations of the letters are on the other, incorporating typography, photography, modern dance and graphic design in one book.
“I find, as both a dancer and as someone who works in special collections, something really interesting about books and about archival material,” Karkutt said.
“We conceivably think of (them) as being stationary and then dance, which we think of as moving and dynamic, (is) overlapping within this book.”
The dancers in “Ghost” mimic Mayerova in that they move in letterforms, strategically spelling in certain instances. However, because the piece is structurally improvised, dancers improvise their dialogue and have certain non-choreographed moments.
Senior and co-president Celeste Cowan sa id improvising in a group differs from improvising a solo performance.
“When you’re alone, improvising can be very self-indulgent, but in this setting, you really have to make it a group effort and you have to work to make the piece a cohesive entity,” she said.
The different venue also poses a challenge, as Gerrard Hall is not a traditional stage setting. The audience will be looking down on the dancers, and the audience on the ground floor will be encouraged to walk around and change their perspective.
“This is an event that I think we’re all really proud of because ... I think we are setting the example for dancers to really create and be artists.”