The Daily Illini

Krannert’s annual November dance concert honors Kate Kuper

By Megan Bradley, Staff writer

The past four years of research for Mauriah Kraker led her to the choreography of “As such, or not.” Kraker’s improvisational piece is one featured in the November Dance concert this weekend.

November Dance, an annual concert at Colwell Playhouse, showcases some of the choreography that students, faculty and even guest choreographers have been working on. This year, it is held in honor of Kate Kuper, a faculty member who passed away last year.

“It’s a place where all of our dance majors get to perform, so we show work by a variety of different people and each concert’s completely different depending on the choreographer,” said Rebecca Nettl-Fiol, concert director for November Dance. “This particular concert we do have a guest piece and then three student works and one faculty work.”

Choosing the pieces that make it into the concert require looking at which faculty members are interested in choreographing, whether there is a guest choreographing artist and what proposals students enter, Nettl-Fiol said.

By choosing the pieces this way, the goal is not to have a big story throughout. Rather, each choreographer strives to tell their story through individual pieces.

As a graduate student in FAA, Kraker’s improvisational research led her to investigate the spaces people conduct everyday activities in as well as how people arrive and depart from said activities.

“I wished to make our delight in moving and dancing with each other public,” Kraker said. “A place where together we practice stepping forward into the unknown, into the space of the possible, each moment choosing to engage, to risk, to make a bridge rather than a barrier.”

This year’s November Dance features a guest piece from Olga Zitluhina, a choreographer from Latvia.

Nettl-Fiol said the University was able to have Zitluhina choreograph for the dancers via a grant called Global Practice Sharing. The grant allows groups of artists from Europe and the U.S. participate in exchange programs. In this way, dancers are able to gain exposure to unique cultures and incorporate that into dance.

Zitluhina was in Illinois for two weeks working extensively with the dancers who were cast in her piece. Now that she is back in Latvia, Nettl-Fiol has kept the piece in rehearsal and made sure it will be ready for the concert.

The chance to engage with a Latvian choreographer makes this November Dance unique from past ones, but so does the theme of the year: “Celebrating Kate Kuper.”

Kuper’s impact extends beyond the University. She taught children’s dance classes, was active in the Jewish community, led dance classes for people with Parkinson’s at KCPA and practiced yoga.

“She had so many pockets of people that almost everybody knew her, so we’re hoping that people will come together under the fact that we’re honoring her in this concert,” Nettl-Fiol said.

In addition to the show, Nettl-Fiol said there will be a reception for those who were close with Kuper.

Nettl-Fiol said viewers should not attempt to find concrete meaning in the dances, but rather bring their own experiences to the concert and view the dances through their own lens.

“For me, because I’ve been in dance my whole life and I just love seeing the human body on stage moving, I just think that’s moving no matter what,” Nettl-Fiol said. “So not to look for a certain meaning or feel pressured to think ‘Oh I won’t understand it,’ just think that’s a human and we all move.”

The art of choreography leaves a lot up to interpretation, which is where the audience comes in.

Each choreographer conducted research based on his or her own interests and applied that to their piece, whether through sounds or movements. The concert will have a variety of styles from Kraker’s improvisational piece, which will vary each night, to a tap solo choreographed by Charlie Maybee that challenges the traditional ways tap is seen.

November Dance gives undergraduate students, like Jaelin Heavisides, senior in FAA, the opportunity to work with talented choreographers and showcase their own talents.

Heavisides danced in last year’s November Dance and said it was one of her favorite shows that she’s done at the University. For her, one of the best parts is the diversity of the show.

“When you go to a dance show it’s unpredictable what you’re going to see,” Heavisides wrote in an email. “When watching it, so much unfolds and it gives the audience a chance to perceive it in many different ways. I find it beautiful because there are always so many different interpretations.”

Dance is an art that can be applied to modern dilemmas; dancers and choreographers continuously work to relate it to their lives.

Kraker said her piece is relevant to the theme as she tried to draw heavily from the delight that can be achieved through movement.

“This seems important as we go on a year of learning how to be present to loss, absence and upheaval,” Kraker said. “Both in relation to Kate Kuper’s passing and the climate of the American social and political landscape.”

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