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Ackland Art Museum hosts first performance of interpretive dance class

Modern dance meets the Ackland’s finest in a performance by a UNC exercise and sport science class today.

The event, hosted by the Ackland Art Museum, features modern dance inspired by works of art from the museum’s permanent collection and choreographed by students in the class "Site-Specific Performance."

“We’ve been doing a lot of reading about its history, and the goal is to increase pedestrians’ awareness of their surroundings and highlight things they haven’t noticed before,” said Meredith Woodson, a senior biology major.

Heather Tatreau, the professor and creator of the course, said choosing the Ackland is the perfect place for a site-specific performance because it is an undervalued resource on campus.

“A lot of times students don’t make their way over to the museum, so this is a great way for the public to become familiar with it,” she said. “We’re going to be encouraging the audience to take their own tour and discover the dances that are taking place all over the space.”

The course is new to UNC this semester and was developed with support from the Ackland.

“We offer a course development grant that (Tatreau) used to help her carve out time and thought and create this class that is paired with experiences that she’s had elsewhere,” said Carolyn Allmendinger, director of academic programs for the Ackland. “It’s brand new to Carolina, but it’s not necessarily a new undertaking for her.”

Allmendinger said the Ackland uses its funding for course grants in hopes of finding connections between its resources and the expertise among UNC faculty.

Tatreau said the class has met at the Ackland for every class session so far.

“We’ve been going to the museum and as a class have looked at different paintings and sculptures and have talked about how we could draw movement from the art,” she said. “I developed the overall structure of the show and they filled in their individual choreography within that form.”

Woodson said the final creative process was condensed into two class sessions.

“Each group choreographed a dance that runs about four minutes long that we’re going to repeat a lot throughout the show,” she said. “There’s no improved parts, but it isn’t set to music, so you can slow down or speed up the choreography to make it different every time.”

Allmendinger said the show will take place in several locations in the museum.

“The dancers will lead audience members into different areas of the gallery throughout the performance,” she said. “A major component of the class is to engage not only with works of art but with the spaces in which the art is available.”

Allmendinger said the performance will be interactive and allow the public to engage in student learning. 

“The class is going to encourage the audience to offer feedback,” she said. “It’s a new way to experience the museum — it’s going to make the art and the spaces look and feel different even for people who have been before.”

This afternoon's show is the first of three performances that the class will perform at the Ackland. The subsequent shows will take place on March 30 and April 27 in other areas of the museum. 


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