OU’s Contemporary Dance Oklahoma focuses on human experiences 

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Innovation takes form through the human body with upcoming performances from the University of Oklahoma’s Contemporary Dance Oklahoma.

Showcasing the university’s foremost talent, the School of Dance brings fresh choreography and intricate stories to dance aficionados and novices alike. Artistic director and associate professor of dance Austin Hartel discussed the original works onstage through Sunday.

“We have very thought-provoking pieces this season that draw from a variety of topics and ideas,” Hartel said. “There is a definite blend between classical ballet and modern dance, which brings a unique experience to the stage.”

For over 40 years, OU’s School of Dance has propelled its students’ careers through challenging classics and original pieces. This year’s repertoire features four short performances in one dynamic show. Hartel and other OU Dance faculty have formulated original programs centered on social commentary, personal expression and novel choreography.

“The show opens with Hashtag, which is inspired by current world affairs and how information is spread,” Hartel said. “Our associate director Roxanne Lyst wanted to explore how ideas gain an audience in our current society, so the performance communicates how social media facilitates information.”

Contemporary Dance OK’s themes range from the global to the personal, conveying a plethora of emotions through group and solo performances. Hartel created one program to reflect a universal predicament through internal struggle.

Brodie’s Introspection ... is a duet for two senior dancers set to classical music,” Hartel said. “Each dancer represents a different life choice that alters an individual’s life path in the future.”

The company’s third short performance explores Hartel’s formative experiences with rock music and celebrates 1970s nostalgia.

Tethered brings together three pieces of music that were on the Top 10 when I was younger,” he said. “I’m exploring the year 1973 through three different presentations of rock ’n’ roll.”

For sentimental Baby Boomers, Tethered recalls early ’70s musical greats. Dancers perform to The Allman Brothers Band’s “Jessica,” David Essex’s “Rock On” and Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold.”

“Including epic guitar solos and classic rock creates a lighter tone to break up the heavier themes in the show,” he said. “The music chosen also reflects different types of people from the period — hippies, punks and heavy metal rockers make for really fun choreography material.”

The show’s final piece melds classic dance styles with contemporary choreography, showcasing a journey through time and space.

All the dancers perform to Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” Hartel said, which translates the history of ballet, “starting with the classical, romantic ballets most people are familiar with and morphing into a more abstract, acrobatic dance.”

He said there’s more to the artform than simply “getting” conceptual dance.

“There’s actually nothing to figure out or ‘get,’ so to speak,” he said. “It’s all about feeling what the dancers emote while they perform, like viewing abstract painting or sculpture. Let the dance pieces take you to a different place, and enjoy contemporary dance as an experience.”

Print headline: Current themes, OU’s Contemporary Dance Oklahoma focuses on human experiences.

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