The Department of Theatre Arts at Ithaca College has put bodies into motion to address pertinent questions in life — good and bad habits, the desires of the subconscious and the role of women throughout time — in an upcoming dance production.
On Dec. 1, the Dillingham Center will present “Winter Bodies,” a ballet dance concert choreographed by three professors in the department: Courtney Young, Lindsay Gilmour and Amy Walker O’Brien. The production will be showing until Dec. 4.
The concert is broken into three distinct acts, each with its own choreography — Gilmour’s “Hysterical Creatures”; Young’s “Dream Ballet” and “Out of my Dreams”; and Walker O’Brien’s “In a Particular Way.”
In “Hysterical Creatures,” Gilmour deconstructs the roles that women perform throughout history in a loose poetic interpretation. Some archetypal roles that Gilmour addresses in her ballet are of women as wives, mothers, spinsters, sirens or vixens, and workingwomen.
Before her performance, in the lobby, Gilmour will have a display of the Victorian era gowns that are worn by the dancers and designed by Marcie Farwell, a local artist who creates mid-century gowns as art pieces. The gowns will be used to represent the suffragist movement, the first part of Gilmour’s ballet.
Other parts of the performance include a look at the post–World War II woman, women from the era of sexual liberation and finally, a look at the workingwoman who tries to balance everything — a family, career and hobbies.
“I’m working with these historical taboos, but it is not really about history or these particular times; it’s using these time periods to be symbols for things that we are now,” Gilmour said.
Senior Maya Drummond, a dancer from “Hysterical Creatures,” said the process of creating this modern piece was physically, mentally and emotionally taxing. In the end, however, she said it encouraged vulnerability, acceptance, humility and confidence.
“Our movement, and the emotion behind it, is influenced by each others’ experiences and the experiences of women throughout history,” Drummond said. “This piece is a chance to overtly condemn oppression of women while simultaneously empowering women.”
Gilmour’s inspiration for “Hysterical Creatures” came from thinking about the world in which she wanted her daughter to live.
“The piece is part satire on things that I have struggled with and that my generation or my mother’s generation have struggled with,” she said.
Unlike Gilmour, Young did not create her piece. Young choreographed two pre-existing ballets from the musical “Oklahoma” — “Dream Ballet” and “Out of my Dream.”
Young said this ballet is important to the show because it exposes theater students to classic ballets from the musical theater canon.
“Dream Ballet” follows Laurey, the main character, and her inner struggle between two men in her life, Curly and Jud, after falling asleep. Throughout her dream, Laurey goes back and forth between the two, and in “Out of my Dream,” she wakes up and makes her decision.
Sophomore Maria Scherer will be playing Laurey, the lead in the ballet.
“I’m so fortunate to be able to bring this beautiful piece of golden-age musical theater alive alongside a group of talented and dedicated performers,” Scherer said. “I really enjoy telling Laurey’s story because I feel like every person has gone to far lengths to try to find clarity, especially with something as special as love.”
Walker O’Brien’s “In a Particular Way” examines the many dimensions of the habits people develop.
“A habit is something that we become accustomed to doing without even realizing it,” she said. “Exploring these questions reveals that our habits and society are intricately connected and that reflecting on our habits helps us reach a deeper understanding of the society we live in as well.”
Walker O’Brien said her inspiration for this ballet came from her own habits and how she communicates them through her physical language as a dancer, teacher and human. She said she hopes the ballet will promote a discussion among the audience members.
“Seeing the dancers take ownership and how they will put their breath and life into the steps … dance is a beautiful physical language, and this group of dancers, designers and mentors put a great amount of love and heart into the evening’s work,” she said.
Tickets are currently up for sale at https://ithaca.ticketforce.com/ for Dec. 1–4.