CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The November Dance performance by the dance department at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign will feature the work of Donald Byrd, a Tony Award-nominated and Bessie Award-winning choreographer who is the George A. Miller Visiting Guest Artist in residency on campus this fall, as well as choreography by an alumna and two graduate students.
November Dance is Nov. 11-13 at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are available online only at the Krannert Center ticket office. A virtual event Nov. 10 at 7:30 p.m. will feature a livestreamed performance of November Dance, and it will be available for on-demand viewing Nov. 15-29.
Anna Sapozhnikov – a dance alumna, lecturer and the assistant head of program administration and engagement – created a dance inspired by Russian choreographer Bronislava Nijinska’s work “Les Noces.” Sapozhnikov is a Russian native whose work is heavily influenced by Nijinska.
“Les Noces” was created in 1923 and performed by the influential Ballet Russes.
“There was not a lot of depiction of the female voice in the ballet world at that time. For Nijinska to have the capacity to create work, have it produced on a stage and have an audience view it was huge for that time frame,” Sapozhnikov said.
The nontraditional ballet depicts a Russian peasant wedding, but in a very dark, unromantic way, she said.
“The bride had these long, long braids that dragged along the floor and that would be wrapped around other dancers. Neither the groom nor the bride looked happy. The music by Stravinsky was very dissonant and intense, nothing that you would think of as classical ballet at that time,” Sapozhnikov said. “This was a way to take ballet and turn it upside down. It was very modern, very forward-thinking.”
Sapozhnikov’s work “Svad’ba” is a reaction to that ballet, and it is much more abstract than the literal story in “Les Noces.”
The seven dancers wear rust-colored costumes with square necklines that are similar to those in the original ballet. There is no bride, groom or wedding party, “just individuals trying to sit with tradition and accept it but feeling overwhelmed and suffocated by it,” she said.
Sapozhnikov collaborated on the set with John Boesche, a theatre professor of media design. It features a beautiful arched door typical of those found in the Russian Orthodox church, which disappears during the piece and is replaced by images of crumbling concrete. Sapozhnikov said her parents were married in a Russian church and they had a photo of themselves in a similar doorway. When they visited the church many years later, it was in ruins with the concrete crumbling away.
The music for the dance is two pieces of instrumental music by Russian composer Boris Sichon, one of which is a Ukrainian wedding song.
“It’s playing with a seemingly happy tradition,” Sapozhnikov said.
Donald Byrd, a Tony Award-nominated and Bessie Award-winning choreographer who is in residency on campus this fall, restaged his work “Love” with Illinois dance students.
Photo by Natalie Fiol
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Graduate student Jakki Kalogridis created “Untitled (Ode to a New Atlantis),” a work for first-year dance students. The dancers explore polyrhythmic relationships between the auditory and the visual as they spin off balance, spiral and abruptly change directions.
Graduate student Jacob Henss choreographed “Harbored Weight” as his thesis work. The dancers ritualistically gather and disband against a set design of neon lights and string curtains, and a montage of visual and auditory references. They perform to live music by dance accompanist Beverly Hillmer.
Byrd re-created his work “Love” with Illinois dance students. The dance, which will close the show, was restaged by guest artist Vincent Michael Lopez during the COVID-19 pandemic and is accompanied by a score by Benjamin Britten, performed live by Denise Djokic.