November 18, 2020

Princeton Dance Festival “Reimagined” This Year

CHOREOGRAPHY DURING COVID: Senior Ysabel Ayala interacts with Henry Moore’s sculpture “Oval with Points” on the Princeton campus while rehearsing a solo work she created that will be among the pieces presented in “Princeton Dance Festival Reimagined.” (Photo by Jonathan Sweeney)

The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Dance at Princeton University presents Princeton Dance Festival Reimagined, a virtual edition of its major annual concert exploring dance in the COVID era through new works, November 23 at 8:30 p.m. and December 3-5 at 8 p.m. Professional choreographers Peter Chu, Francesca Harper, Rebecca Lazier, Dean Moss, Silas Riener, and Olivier Tarpaga have worked with Princeton dance students to explore the intersections of dance and multimedia performance, digital animation, filmmaking, site-based work, and music.

Each evening is a completely different and unique experience followed by a question and answer session with the choreographers. The Dance Festival is free and open to the public with registration required for each performance. Pre-recorded content will be closed captioned and live performances and conversations will be open captioned.

Along with the entire global dance community, the Program in Dance is exploring the challenges of dance in a socially distanced world. Work over the past semester culminates in the Dance Festival to consider how dance artists can create new methods of dance and choreography for the online environment that reimagine frontiers of physical practice and the choreographic space. Participating students are currently taking their Princeton courses online from throughout the U.S. and abroad.

“The creativity and commitment of our faculty choreographers to meet the challenge of choreographing and teaching virtually has been astounding,” said Susan Marshall, director of the Program in Dance. “They and our extraordinary students responded with innovation and resilience to the limitations and potentials of dancing physically apart while virtually collaborating and learning together. These performances are powerful testimony our students’ resolve to grow and flower creatively despite these trying times. Please join this far flung community of dancers as they come together for what promises to be an amazing series of performances.”

On November 23, Chu and his students present Welcome HOME: The Princeton Series, a thought-provoking yet playful journey that evokes the viewer’s spatial perception. Viscerally charged with moving imagery, Welcome HOME celebrates raw, curious, and honest communication. The program on December 3 features Emergence and Discovery: Digital Dance Portraits led by Francesca Harper. The project facilitates collaborative construction and the development of 10 short, personal films allowing movement, filmmaking, images, text, music, and discovery in natural and industrial habitat to be accessible and serve as inspiration. The films ask: as dance artists emerge from isolation and reshape their lives, how do they preserve the moment? This existential question has been translated into art.

On December 4 works led by Lazier and Moss are featured. In Site Dance Lazier and her students ask: Where can dance happen and what can it do? The students will share site-based performance projects built from research into their communities. Each project traces different intersections of personal, cultural, and geographic stories with movement, dance, and performance. In Live & Surreal: Lucy Sirrs, sophomore Sirrs was mentored by Moss in creation of a video dance project inspired by women’s historic struggle for reproductive rights and the surreal artwork of Martha Rosler. The piece portrays Sirrs’ exploration of her desires, her pride, and her courage through the lens of her childhood bedroom.

The Festival concludes on December 5 with work led by Riener and Tarpaga. Riener, a former member of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, leads a project in hybrid dance experiments blurring natural, virtual, and augmented environments. Rooted in Merce Cunningham Technique, students studied, practiced, and performed excerpts from Cunningham dances spanning over 50 years of choreography for stage and camera. In tandem students created new work for an evolving digital platform by adapting and misusing some of Cunningham’s methods: scores for chance procedures, indeterminacy, fixed and mobile camera perspectives, layers of structural complexity, and animation. Out of Sync is a hybrid dance work/video choreographed remotely by Tarpaga in collaboration with his dancers with music composed and performed by Tim Motzer on guitar, Daniel John T. Johnson on table, and Tarpaga.

For Zoom registration links, visit