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Diversity marks this weekend's `Ark Dances'

Ripped, black negligees, 20-foot-long silk ribbons, wooden canes, woven baskets and 30 Duke Dance Club members will converge in The Ark tonight and Saturday night for "Ark Dances '93," an annual dance concert.

This semester's 13-piece program, choreographed almost entirely by student members of the Duke Dance Club, includes works ranging from Chinese folk dance and solo cane step dance to modern dance numbers. The messages the choreographers and dancers attempt to convey also represent a diverse spectrum of topics, including myths, the history of entertainment, the bonds of unity, the aftermath of rape and the loss of innocence.

The first work in the program, "Women," is choreographed by Trinity senior Kimberly Pittman, former president of Duke Dance Club. To the music of Eric Clapton, the dance explores the different ways in which women deal with personal problems, Pittman says. Individually, the dancers seek solace in spiritual comforts or frenzied action; however, they find that the ultimate solace is in one another.

"We," choreographed by Trinity sophomores Heather Larson and Beth Phillips, stems from a similar inspiration. In this work, a quartet of female dancers dressed in simple leotards and pink skirts present a fluid, mellow, yet uplifting work. According to its choreographers, the celebration of sisterhood, unity and the common bonds that join women were the creative impulses that lead to this simple, graceful dance.

In complete contrast, "Midnight in Tunisia," a solo cane step dance choreographed and performed by Trinity senior Christopher McAllister, is dedicated to black performers of the 1920s and 30s. The Berry Brothers, creators of cane dancing, were among many black entertainers of this era whose creativity was stifled by the entertainment industry, McAllister says.

In McAllister's work, his cane assumes an identity of its own as a tangible representation of amassed creativity. It lends itself to the dancer who skillfully twirls and throws it like a baton. Set to "Night in Tunisia" by Dee Dee Bridgewater, McAllister calls his piece "Midnight in Tunisia" to signify a change from an oppressive, stifling night to a bright new day.

Thomas Pynchon's novel "Gravity's Rainbow" is the inspiration for "Field Tensor," says Sandy Chase, the work's choreographer. In the novel, a state of paranoia stems from the creation of the V2 rocket; the dance also tries to convey paranoia among the seven dancers.

In addition to these pieces laden with psychological drama, the program will also include works that were choreographed simply for entertainment purposes. In "Ribbon Dance," a variation on a traditional Chinese folk dance choreographed by Engineering junior Fay Chang, three dancers twirl 20-foot-long red silk ribbons through the air to create intricate, swirling designs, continually keeping the ribbons in motion. In contrast to the fluid grace of the ribbons, KZlZ Woo performs a different, more athletic type of Chinese folk dance. Titled "Martial Fan Dance," Woo's piece will display precision, light-footedness and unique fan manipulating technique.

The diverse "Ark Dances" program achieves even more variety with a work inspired by a dance step widely known in the Caribbean, "Zouk." Choreographed by Trinity sophomore Armide Bien-Aime and performed by Dance Black, this piece incorporates folkloric techniques as well as contemporary dance steps, Bien-Aime says. Wearing colorful Caribbean-style costumes, the five dancers portray a lighthearted representation of the joys of life.

This semester's "Ark Dances" also includes a premiere performance of "Of Blue" choreographed by Clay Taliaferro, Duke Dance program artist-in-residence.

The diverse and multicultural program will be presented tonight and Saturday night at seven o'clock in the Ark Dance Studio on East Campus. Admission is free for students, $3 for others.


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