October 4, 2022
Ithaca, NY | 53°F


Campus transforms into outdoor dance stage

Four students, huddled together on the grass, suddenly split up and run toward a tree in front of Hill Center. They quickly climb the tree, each selecting a different branch to stand on. Grasping the branches, they bend backward, stretch their arms over their heads and extend their legs behind them. They use the tree as a prop for their dance.

This scene is part of the fifth annual “Wings of Spring” dance concert, put on by the Producing Theater, Modern Dance IV and Ballet III classes.

This year’s performance, called “Sounds of Spring,” will take place at 5:30 p.m. May 1. “Wings of Spring” will also be a collaboration with ICircus, to add another dimension to the production.

Angela Branneman, assistant professor of theater arts and one of the founders of the event in 2009, said the show allows for students of different majors to contribute to the creative process.

“The project is intended as an opportunity for students to express their passion for the arts, regardless of degree or major,” she said.

The performance will begin in front of Egbert Hall and will continue as the audience follows the 35 dancers to Dillingham Center. Site-specific dances will be performed in the area between these two locations. The spiral staircase next to Muller Center, the clock tower in the middle of campus and the picnic tables by Dillingham Center are just a few of the props they will be using in the dance.

Lindsay Gilmour, assistant professor of theater arts and the Modern IV instructor, said site-specific dance is a genre that focuses on the use of architecture and nature. Spaces such as trees, benches and staircases will be used in the performance and will be paired with nature sounds created by the performers.

“How we begin creating a site-specific dance is we find a space,” Gilmour said. “Then we’ll look at the space and start creating movement that can only be done in that space.”

Students in the Modern Dance IV and Ballet III classes are creating the dance pieces that will be performed. Amy O’Brien, Ballet III instructor, said the campus environment has stimulated new ways for the students to create their dances.

“It’s wonderful, because every time you go outside there’s another idea,” she said. “There’s another creative avenue that the Wings of Spring can take.”

Four students twirl to pre-recorded new age music while they sit on the picnic benches by Dillingham Center, a part of the site-specific dance form. Gilmour said the goal of site-specific is to bring attention to common pieces of architecture and nature.

“A lot of site-specific is helping people notice the everyday,” she said. “You walk by the staircase every day, but you never think about it. We’re hoping to help people see that staircase in a way they’re never seen it before … opening people up to the everyday — to these tiny, extraordinary events.”

Senior Meghan Gallagher, a dancer in the performance and a student in the Modern IV class, said the process of creating site-specific dance is inspiring. She also said, however, that having to create a dance around the space if often challenging.  

“There’s always challenges of people having their own ideas,” she said. “But I think it’s always rewarding too when you can manage to meet halfway … I think that’s what makes a really exciting dance piece.”

She also said audience members should keep an open mind and will leave the event with a new understanding of art.

“I think that with site-specific pieces like this, what [the audience] will take away is that art can be in any environment at any time,” she said.

The performance will be followed by a reception in the lobby of Dillingham Center, featuring student art pieces centering on the theme of sound and movement.

O’Brien said she hopes the audience leaves with a positive image of this site-specific dance and sees potential for future performances.

“I’m just hoping that the audience takes something beautiful away from it and looks forward to next year,” she said. “I can’t wait to see what they’re going to do and how they’re going to do something different.”

Wings of Spring will take place at 5:30 p.m. on May 1 outside Campus Center. Admission is free. A promotional video for “Wings of Spring” can be viewed at