UArts Dancers’ Attention to Space and Time in Beth Gill’s Yolk

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Photo credit: Kristel Baldoz

by Gregory King, Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance at Swarthmore College for the Dance Journal

2011 Performance Bessie Award recipient or Outstanding Emerging Choreographer, Beth Gill employed her choreographic philosophy in the creation of Yolk – a 20-minute exploration of aesthetics and perception. Danced in silence, Yolk was a looping puzzle, as performers rotated roles, moving from one end of the Solmssen Court of Hamilton Hall to the next.

Dressed in various assortments of casual attire, the dancers entered the space from various parts of the room.

They slowly began with gestures… maybe a fall, one dancer gently stroking his own face.

They each had a purpose – individual yet connected.

Relationships were alluded to. Winked at.

Pin, wall, and round shapes were all made with their bodies.

Gill sat two seats to my left, and I found myself watching her watch her work – engaged but removed.

Dancer Donovan Reed, also a dancer with Eleone Dance Theatre, stomped the floor with one foot before rising to relevé on the other leg. Then he was still.

That was the first time I realized the piece was in silence.

Even in a state of musiclessness, they created their own music.

A walk, a rock, a slow crawl. They maneuvered around each other with pedestrian ease.

Given the repetitive nature of the piece, along with its lack of music, some would argue that Yolk was about nothingness – that it was another attempt at post-modernism. But upon further investigation, I think Yolk was about space and time.

Using Laban Movement Analysis (LMA), a systematic way of analyzing, observing, and describing movement, the dynamics in Yolk would inform us that there was particular emphasis placed on the effort factors of time and space. When described, effort is arguably the ongoing sense of self in relationship to the environment over time.

The dancers of Yolk were careful in how they interacted with each other. There was consideration for how they would get to where they were going and how much time it would take to get there. Looking at their movements through the lens of LMA, one might say that the dancers were in an “awake” state – a state of alertness.

In her opening remarks Gill was permissive about moving around the room in order to view the piece from different places, so as Beth got up to move to the place where the dancers started, I edged towards the place they would end.

I welcomed the problem-solving of figuring out if the geometry of the piece would change as I shifted my viewpoint.

Like pedestrian movement, dance lends itself to multiple interpretations.

The choreographer has a vision, the dancer brings to life that vision and the audience members interpret what the dancers physicalized.

The yolk of an egg is the part that feeds the developing embryo. Gill crafted a ballet that allowed each dancer to serve as the umbilical cord, the feed pipe, the Yolk.

About Gregory King

Gregory King received his MFA in Choreographic Practice and Theory from Southern Methodist University. In addition, he is certified in Elementary Labanotation. His dance training began in Washington DC at the Washington Ballet and later at American University. He went on to participate in the Horton Project in conjunction with the Library of Congress. His training continued at the prestigious institutions such as The Dance Theatre of Harlem and The Alvin Ailey School. Gregory has performed with The Washington Ballet, Rebecca Kelly Ballet, Erick Hawkins Dance Company, New York Theatre Ballet, Donald Byrd /The Group, The Metropolitan Opera Ballet, New York City Opera, and Disney’s The Lion King on Broadway.

His desire to integrate social activism into his choreography began with his graduate thesis, where he used the platform to push the conversation about homophobia and heterosexism. He is a lover of movement exploration and describes his aesthetic as a classical base with a theatrical flair.

He has taught at Boston Ballet, Boston Conservatory, Boston University, Bowdoin College, Dallas Black Dance Theatre and Texas Ballet Theatre. Additionally, he has served as a teaching artist in public schools in and around Dallas, as Resident Guest artist at Temple University and Assistant Professor of Dance at Dean College. Recently, Gregory received the Excellence in Teaching Award from the National Society of Leadership and Success. He is currently a Visiting Professor of Dance and Consortium on Faculty Diversity Fellow at Swarthmore College where he teaches Modern and continues to use his choreography as a means for social change.

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