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Dance-theater group pushes students to push the edge

By Rebecca Costello on October 17, 2008
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video iconOn a late Wednesday afternoon in Colgate’s Ryan dance studio, a dozen students were gathered on the floor in a circle, intensely deconstructing a short video clip they had just watched, of a frenetic, kinesthetic scene that was part dance, part theater, part music.
The students — dancers, singers, actors, and one self-described “seeker” — had come for a workshop with members of the Argentinian experimental dance theater ensemble Grupo Krapp.


Three students who speak Spanish served as translators for the group as they examined how the scene was structured, interpreted how the peformers used movement to convey a sense of space and different levels of meaning, and explored how music and rhythm were used.
Then the students broke up into groups to invent their own movement scenes, employing the elements they had just discussed, which they would perform on campus in the coming days.
Grupo Krapp (named in homage to Samuel Beckett’s one-act play Krapp’s Last Tape) spent eight days on campus in early October as this year’s Cathy MacNeil Hollinger and Mark Hollinger Artists-In-Residence.
The New York Times has called them “an endearing, excellent collective.”
“I saw them last summer when I was in Buenos Aires,” said April Sweeney, assistant professor of English in the university theater, who invited the ensemble to campus.
“Their choreography struck me — this space that they inhabit between dance and theater . . . It really spoke to me, and I thought it was more than bold. It was crazy risky, somehow, and really funny and subtle and smart, and the form was somewhat bleak and hysterical at the same time.”
Sweeney knew they would be a perfect choice for this year’s Forum on the Arts, whose theme, “Crossing Cultures, Crossing Mediums, ” looks at artists who work in interdisciplinary ways, bringing different mediums together and bridging cultures.
The Forum on the Arts is sponsored by Colgate’s Institute for the Creative and Performing Arts.
In addition to the Wednesday workshop, Grupo Krapp offered a second open workshop to students, talked with students about their work in informal meetings, and visited several classes, including Core Cultures: Argentina, Intro to Latin American Politics, and a Spanish Literature course given in Spanish.
They also performed two of their shows in Brehmer Theater: Olympica, which depicts a group of ex-Olympic athletes trying to recover their lost cathartic and sublime experiences, and Mendiolazza, a choreographic drama that depicts situations of compulsion and failure through eternal movement, inspired by images of Serrano’s towns.
“The students really had a chance to interact. I feel like we could really feel their presence,” said Sweeney. “We’re so lucky to have them.”

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