Dance TriumphGAMBIER, Ohio (May 10, 2010) The power of dance is driving a Kenyon student choreographer and her crew to the biennial National College Dance Festival on May 28 in Washington, D.C.
Shaina Cantino, a senior dance major from Athens, Ohio, choreographed "I went into a home that wasn't mine" for the 2009 Fall Dance Concert. Her work was chosen to represent Kenyon at the regional American College Dance Festival at Ohio University in Athens in March. The piece for a cast of eight was one of three that qualified for national gala concerts from among forty at the regional conference.
"The most meaningful part of it for me is how people have responded to the piece," Cantino said. "The whole process has been so exciting."
Kenyon joins twenty-nine colleges at the national event at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on May 27-29. The biennial national festival started in 1981 to showcase the best of collegiate choreography. Ten regional conferences were held to narrow the field.
The piece was performed twice at the Athens regional, with the first making the cut for the Gala Concert during which ten dances competed to attend the national festival. "The audience erupted in response," Cantino said. "We touched people in a way that was really rewarding." Kenyon had another winning piece in the regional, choreographed by guest artist Karl Rogers and performed by senior Alicia LaPalombara of Merion Station, Pennsylvania. Each college can only be represented by one dance at the national event, and Cantino's piece was selected.
Her choreography hinged on "a truly ensemble process" that took advantage of structured improvisation and blended dancers with formal and informal training. Text by Roseann Proctor, a senior from Eugene, Oregon, and parts of the Leonard Cohen song "Anthem" are integral to the piece.
"Going into this piece, I was interested in collaborating with people who have never danced before to help find the humanness in the movement," Cantino said. "What we're doing is not technical, it's very human. The more raw, the more I like it. I found in watching that I had to work harder with the people who had dance training to get beyond their stylistic patterns."
"I went into a home that wasn't mine" considers human relationships and the "social and personal development patterns and tics that prevent us from connecting," she said. "Loneliness in a group" is dispelled by those moments when people are surprised by someone or something outside their patterns.
The cast includes Will Arbery '11 of Dallas, Texas; Cantino; Katie Crowell '10 of River Forest, Illinois; Bennet Davidson '12 of Nashville, Tennessee; Joseph Lerangis '12 of New York City; Rania Manganaro '10 of Highland Park, New Jersey; Proctor; and Laurin Schoenemann '12 of Hamburg, Germany.
The selection of Kenyon for the Kennedy Center performance is "pretty mammoth," said Kora Radella, visiting assistant professor of dance. "What it does is signal a kind of national placement for what we're doing here. It's a huge honor."
Radella described the Cantino piece as "a perfect blend of movement and text with a very central vocabulary of movement. The text is very quirky but poignant, and Shaina did a really good job of editing and making choices."
Balinda Craig-Quijada, associate professor of dance, said dances at the regional events are selected through "blind" judging, and judges are unaware if the choreography was done by undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, or guest artists. "It will be a very proud moment for Kenyon College dance when we join the other schools from around the country to represent the very best in college dance," she said.
Rebecca Wolf, assistant professor of drama, will join the trip to Washington to provide lighting design for the dance.
Cantino hopes to continue both choreography and performance after graduation and is intrigued by the idea of forming a dance theater company. The Kenyon program, she said, "encourages and supports self-directed, creative projects."