Each dance interprets an untitled abstract painting.
Some will express happiness, some sadness and still others courage and tragedy.
But Darrion Hill’s dances will reflect only love. The audience will see it in the dance he choreographed and the one in which he performs in “Abstraction,” the debut production by New Venture Movement, New Venture Theatre’s new dance division.
The show opens on Saturday, June 27, in the Hartley/Vey Studio Theatre at the Manship Theatre in the Shaw Center for the Arts, featuring work by five choreographers, including New Venture Movement’s artistic director Jeoffery Harris Jr.
But Hill is the only student choreographer on the program.
“He’s part of New Venture’s Choreography Development Program,” Harris said. “He’s done well, and we wanted to give him an opportunity.”
Harris observes as Hill works with the three dancers in his piece in En Pointe Studio, one of several rehearsal locations for the group. Each dancer takes a turn in a featured move in Hill’s piece, “The Point of it All.”
And what, exactly, is the point of it all?
“It’s love,” Hill explained. “It’s all about love, and each of the dancers expresses love in her own way. And in the end, love is love, no matter how it’s expressed. It’s still love.”
Harris is a junior at Baton Rouge Magnet High School and a student in its dance program, so his dance experience is vast. But “Abstraction” marks his first venture into choreography.
His piece will be one among those by experienced choreographers Brandi Chapman, Christian Simon, Emanuel Washington and, of course, Harris.
“I chose the paintings and the music that would go with each painting,” Harris said. “The choreographers chose which paintings they wanted to create the dance to.”
The idea behind “Abstraction” is to bring abstract visual art to life on stage. Abstract painters offer different stories of how and why they create within their genre. Harris wanted to take that a step further.
The choreographers may not be expressing the same ideas or feelings as the painters, but that’s OK. Abstract art has a different effect on each viewer.
“We’re celebrating abstract art and exploring the vivid, emotional story behind the canvas,” Harris said. “It’s an innovative showcase, and some of the dances will feature the artwork as a backdrop. Some will feature it in other ways.”
Harris purposely chose untitled pieces by unknown artists for the show so the choreographers could start fresh. A Jackson Pollock painting would have worked, but choreographers may have been tempted to incorporate the artist’s tortured spirit into the story.
“The challenge was to produce a dance that expresses the true meaning of their assigned artistic works,” Harris said. “The result is an experience that celebrates dance through a rich and luscious expression of movement, story, color and emotion as we bring art to life.”
Meanwhile, Hill’s dancers have completed their rehearsal, so Harris asks Hill and dance partner Brionia Gougis to take the floor for Harris’ choreographed piece.
The duo is perfectly matched, both thin with long limbs that create abstract figures on the dance floor while their dance tells a story of love lost, then found.
And, without giving too much away, that love is lost again by the end of the performance. Or did it really exist at all?
“There’s a twist at the end,” Harris said, laughing. “You think it’s something, then something happens, and you realize that wasn’t what you thought it was. It takes place in a diner.”
But that’s as much of a spoiler as he’ll offer for now. Audiences have to attend “Abstraction” to learn what happens next.
And it all unfolds this weekend at the Hartley/Vey Studio Theatre.