Summerdance: “Destiny/Chance and Circumstance” May 31-June 2.

Kayla Schroepfer (leaping) and Katharina Abderholden, Dance BFA students, rehearse for Summerdances. (Photo by Pete Amland.)

For the Peck School of the Arts Department of Dance, Summerdances continues the 2011-12 season theme of “Fate & Destiny” with an exciting, inspiring and highly physical new show on the theme of “Destiny/Chance and Circumstance”
May 31-June 2.

Summerdances features choreography from faculty Elizabeth Johnson and Luc Vanier, plus new works from Visiting Assistant Professors Christina Briggs Winslow and Gerald Casel, and current New Work Award recipient, MFA alumna and New York artist Colleen Thomas.

Thanks to a generous anonymous donor, the department holds an annual commissioning project open to dance alumni, the Dance New Work Award, to create a new work for UWM undergraduate students that is performed at Winterdances or Summerdances. Casel was the second award winner and Thomas is the third.

“Impulsive Minors” by Elizabeth Johnson and “Adroit” by Gerald Casel were originally choreographed for their own respective dance companies but have been set on student dancers for Summerdances.

Summerdances will be presented in the UWM Mainstage Theatre at 7:30 p.m. A reception will follow the June 1 performance, and selected choreographers will host a 6:45 p.m. pre-performance talk each evening.

Tickets are $17/general admission; $12/UWM faculty, staff and alumni; and $10/students. Tickets may be purchased by calling the PSOA Box Office at 414-229-4308 or online at

The program includes:

“Impulsive Minors,” by Elizabeth Johnson: “Impulsive Minors” evolved from Johnson’s choreographic exploration of impulsivity; the resultant dance formed by weaving together episodic, improvised and sometimes unrelated movement “moments” into longer phrases that grow in complexity and musicality to several of Chopin’s minor-key nocturnes. The quixotic, romantic fervor of the music juxtaposed with mercurial shifts of weight, direction, mood and attitude might look like a trip though the adolescent mind, thus the double entendre of the dance’s title. What do you see?

“Adroit,” by Gerald Casel: Sourcing from “Seep,” an existing piece for four dancers made in 2006, Casel explores structure and form to expand this new work for eight. In the new “Adroit,” Casel dismantles the formal elements of “Seep” and reworks the premise of its governing principles – the porous relationships between people in space. “Adroit” challenges these relationships by engaging the dancers to create movement through improvisation, defining what emerges and processing the new material into a re-imagined version of themselves.

Beginning with an improvised score as the audience enters the theater, the performers (de)construct a set, a mental structure and manipulate one another. These manipulations develop further to reveal the power struggle between human beings and expose the tenderness lying beneath the protective walls we construct.

“Undertow,” by Christina Briggs Winslow: “Undertow” explores external forces stronger than oneself. In it, the dancers are drawn to the momentum of the group, especially when dancing alone, creating a chasm between the group’s journey and the individual experience. Sound designer Seth Warren-Crow will be working on music by Henri Torgue and Serge Houppin to create the soundscape for this piece.

“The Year of Unremarkable Laughter,” by Colleen Thomas: Thomas carves out ambiguity in the darkness and ponders time wasted. Performers simultaneously maneuver through urgency and rest, engaging with shadows both playful and longing – and with a heart-stirring physicality that rips from our memory the ache of someone special.

“Somatophobia” (excerpt), by Luc Vanier: Summerdances includes an excerpt from “Somatophobia,” a dance/multimedia experience looking to reconnect the audience and the movers to the subtle physical energies associated with ego, character, presence and embodiment. This new collaborative work looks to integrate psychology, meditation, theater and music with dance to create an intimate experience about the fear of embodiment.

Summerdances collaborators include Christine Barclay, newly graduated from the UWM Music Department in Composition and Voice; dance alumnus Steven Moses, a Milwaukee choreographer and dancer; digital interactive designer Dominic Amato; Your Mother Dances company member and alumna Jaimie Patterson; New York designer Edward Winslow; and sculptor/dancer Marissa Waraksa.

“Somatophobia” will be presented in its full length June 22-24 at Kenilworth 508.