The raw emotion and visceral power of modern dance will take audience members on a journey through history and human introspection as the University of Oklahoma’s Contemporary Dance Oklahoma (CDO) takes the stage April 5-14.
Though each production of the OU School of Dance offers its audiences a unique experience, artistic director and choreographer Austin Hartel said that for him, this show is crafted for a simple, audience-centric purpose.
“My goal is simple: I want people to come see the show, and like it so much that they’ll come see modern dance again,” Hartel said. “That’s why I like that it’s an eclectic show, there’s something for everyone.”
Structured in a series of suites or individual sketches, CDO departs from the linear narrative story-telling of traditional ballets and instead presents a compilation of autonomous vignettes exploring anything from cultural commentary to abstract human themes like habit.
“It’s not so much that the audience understands a story, it’s that they were taken somewhere — they went there, they came back,” Hartel said.
This presentation style capitalizes on modern dance’s unique capacity to apply itself to virtually any music, setting or taste. Simply put, Assistant Artistic Director and choreographer Derrick Minter said modern dance creates a show with something for everyone that is deeply expressive and affecting for both viewer and dancer.
“That’s what’s interesting about modern dance compared to ballet — the dancer has the chance to be free to express who they are, their personal experience, connect with what’s going on in the moment,” Minter said. “It’s not a fairy tale, and I think audience members can connect with the varieties of movement.”
True to the broad range of both modern dance and CDO’s style, this year’s show takes audiences into the golden age of jazz with Minter’s “Elegance in Three” and “Suite Ellington,” moving into the thematic exploration of Hartel’s “Syncopated,” “Working Flesh” and “Tethered.”