Midwinter Festival brings showcases to Butler

When Professor Susan McGuire of the dance department choreographed her piece for this week’s Midwinter Dance Festival back in 2005, she was inspired by Indonesian folk music and based it on a community coping with disaster.

After she had decided on the theme and structure, Indonesia was struck with a tsunami.

“It was a very strange coincidence,” she said.

McGuire’s piece is only one of many parts of the dance department’s annual Midwinter Dance Festival,  held Feb. 25-26.

To add to the performance, “Walpurgisnacht Ballet,” a famous piece from choreographer George Balanchine  originally performed by the New York City Ballet, will be performed as well.

“[Balanchine] just has such specific style and quality,” senior dance performance major Lily Rupp said. “We are really just trying to live up to what he would have wanted his work to look like.”

McGuire said it has been a privilege to perform the number, and that it truly challenges the dancers to do a piece that was done by a professional company.

What’s generally noticeable when discussing Midwinter with both the dance faculty and students is their enthusiasm.

“The festival really shows the other side of what we do in the department,” Stephan Laurent, professor of dance, said.

McGuire expressed a similar sentiment.

“We just really get a chance to explore different ways of making dance,” she said. “Midwinter is a time for us to work in a more creative way and develop our individual voices, both faculty and students. We’re asked to do things that aren’t as familiar to us.”

Karl Watson, a junior dance performance major and soloist for McGuire’s piece, said this show really is more “audience friendly.” He said people unfamiliar with dance could enjoy it more, as it’s six, 20-minute pieces, instead of the longer classical ballets the department also produces.

Of course, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Midwinter is allotted the least amount of rehearsal time, compared to the dance department’s other productions. Watson admits the schedule can be a bit hectic, although he said everyone has been working very hard.

In addition, illnesses have plagued the dancers, just as everyone else on campus. The ice storm didn’t help either, as McGuire and Laurent said they had a few students break bones or injure themselves from slipping on ice.

These set backs haven’t deterred the performance. Instead, they created more opportunities for understudies, who are all “very talented” dancers, Laurent said.

Both the dancers and faculty are confident that the show will be worth the price of admission. Watson added that it’s the most broad Midwinter he’s performed in so far.

“Everything has gone really well so far,” Laurent said. “Our kids are smart. They’re quick and dedicated.”

Laurent choreographed “Karelia Suite,” professor Cynthia Pratt choreographed “1st of 3 in 17,” professor Tong Wang choreographed “Hong” and professor Marek Cholewa choreographed “La Bayadere.”

Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. in Clowes Memorial Hall.