A Thursday evening performance unique to the University of Wyoming is set to feature artistic and scientific expression through the collaboration of a variety of disciplines.
For the fourth year, the UW Department of Theatre and Dance’s Vertical Dance is set to perform at the Berry Biodiversity Conservation Center in conjunction with a performance by local ensemble Lights Along the Shore.
The performance is set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday the Berry Center Atrium, and admission is free.
Lights Along the Shore, a four-person group specializing in original compositions and arrangements of music from around the world, will play several pieces themselves while also accompanying dancers in three pieces.
The group consists of UW faculty members Steve Barnhart on percussion, Rod Garnett on pipe and flute, Blake McGee on clarinet and Lisa Rickard on piano.
Lights Along the Shore member Steve Barnhart will be participating in his final concert in Laramie before retiring this year.
With rigging and ropes in place, dancers will take to the air and move up the wall for their performances, which are inspired by biodiversity themes.
UW associate professor Margaret Wilson said one piece features dancers using the wall as their floor, while two more take place with dancers suspended in the air.
“The dancers are not interacting with anything but another body,” Wilson said.
At one point, a soloist will be dancing near the Berry Center windows at the same height as a display of copper birds, with their flight as the dancer’s inspiration.
“She’ll be dancing with them in a very abstract way,” Wilson said.
She said the Berry Center’s atrium wall is like an outdoor wall, but allows dancers to perform without the threat of rain or wind.
“We can have the ambience of an outdoor building,” she said.
Representations of birds, animals and plants will be included through the music and the dance, an expression of the Biodiversity Institute’s mission to foster understanding and appreciation of biological diversity.
Wilson said vertical dance forces dancers to move against the pull of gravity while oriented in a new way.
“They are challenged to think about how to create movement and control movement in a very different way,” she said.
In addition to the artistic expression of the dance itself, taking the performance to a new plane requires considerations of biomechanics and physics on the part of the dancers and those developing the rigging that supports them.
UW geology professor Neil Humphrey, an instructor in theater and dance, designed the rigging and joins Wilson in the creation and direction of the pieces.
Wilson said their partnership combines elements from a variety of scientific and artistic disciplines.
“It really has been a focal point for us as a way for us to combine our expertise,” she said.
In addition to Humphrey and Wilson, performers include UW students Jordyn Brummond, Sydney Edwards, Amanda Vinson and Stephanie Young.
Wilson thanked the Biodiversity Institute for the use of the venue as well as the Physical Plant for help with rigging.
“It gives us the opportunity to perform on campus and a really wonderful place to perform,” she said.