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With ‘Flight of Sites,’ students and faculty set choreography to campus architecture

October 30, 2020
Two dancers perform "Flight of Sites" choreography outdoors.Undergraduate students Catherine Ramsey (left) and Margaret Porcelli perform outdoors on the hill near Susan B. Anthony halls as part of the "Flight of Sites" concert. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

Flight of Sites: Dances in Innovative Spaces, a two-day concert featuring student and faculty choreography, offered both an outdoor and online audience experience.

Students and faculty in the Program of Dance and Movement at the University of Rochester took dance on a tour of the River Campus in late October. Meanwhile, audience members could enjoy the performances live outdoors or livestreamed on the department’s Facebook page.

Working with the teams in Event and Classroom Management and Wilson Commons Student Activities, the students and faculty assembled pieces that work with spaces the campus community sees and walks by every day. “We have transformed them into art performance spaces,” says senior dance lecturer Anne Wilcox, who serves as the concert’s director.

“The enemy of art is the absence of limitations!” she says, repeating an Orson Welles quotation printed in the Flight of Sites program. “We need limitation. It makes us push that creative core and say what do you got? If you can’t do it this way how else can you do this? I just love their ‘Yeah, we can do this!’ spirit. There are beautiful and rich thoughts going through the students’ minds.”

The students, Wilcox notes, rose to the creative challenge. “They rehearsed outside, even if it was 45 degrees outside. We’ve learned so much.”

Take a look back at the some of the Flight of Sites performances in action (and in situ):


Two dancers look at each other in front of Sage Art Center.

(University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

STEP BY STEP: On the steps of the Sage Art Center—the campus hub of studio arts and visual studies—roommates Margaret (Maggie) Porcelli ’22 (pictured right) and Catherine Ramsey ’21 perform “Red Hands.” Inspired by Emanuel Xavier’s poem “Legendary,” the collaborative creation focuses on the dynamics of connections.

“We wanted to play with relationships and our relationship to the architecture of the space and see where we could go from there,” says Porcelli, a physics and dance double major. “There’s a staircase down the hill that drops down to Sage, and there are two benches in the back that are all cement. We were interested in seeing the effort that we could draw from the cement—the strength and stability and using that in our movement,” she says.


Dancers clad in red pants and black tops perform amid pillars.

(University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

HIDDEN FIGURES: A quartet of dancers perform in front of Hoyt Hall—adjacent to the Eastman Quad—in a piece titled “Hidden Depths.” Dayana Segear ’22 drew her inspiration from the words of writer Anais Nin: “We don’t see them as we are. We see them as we are.”

Segear, a double major in dance and psychology, worked with the space—partially obscured by columns—to add a level of complexity to her piece, saying, “I thought it would be interesting to work with perception versus reality.” As the columns might block the view of some audience members, the perception of the performance changes for each viewer.


Students wear jeans and black tops while dancing on Wilson Commons porch.

(University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

JAZZ STAGE: Xinyuan (Tom) Yi ’20, ’22W (MS) presents an authentic jazz piece on the porch of Wilson Commons. The work features five students in a style of dance introduced in the Harlem community of the 1920s and 1930s. American composer and pianist Duke Ellington wrote “Jump for Joy” to portray African Americans positively on the stage.

“I wanted to do this because I’m a huge jazz fan,” says Yi. “Also, because of what was happening this summer; I was thinking of all the ways I could support the population being suppressed and that supporting this art would be a great way,” he says. The space also has a hard surface and can support the moves and style of the genre. “It’s very rhythmic and a big part is the stomping and sliding.”


Circle of dancers perform on the Graham Smith Plaza under Rush Rhees Library.

(University of Rochester photograph / J. Adam Fenster)

SHARED SPACES: “For the first-year students, we chose a space in the hub of the University,” says Wilcox. “Common Ground” features six students and takes place on the grounds between Douglass and Wilson Commons. Faculty members Anne Wilcox, Missy Pfohl Smith, Rose Pasquarello Beauchamp, and Mariah Steele each met with the students and did a rehearsal. “We built off the next person until we formed something that had a cohesive whole. We were really playing off the architecture of that space,” Wilcox says.


Two students dance on the sidewalk along the Genesee River.

(University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

GENESEE RIVERDANCE: The mutual joy of connecting with someone else is the theme of the work “The Moment of Lift.” It was choreographed by Katherine Carnes ’22 and features two students performing along the Genesee River to “Concierto Para Piano y Orquesta En Sol Mayor.”


A dancer mid-air and another on the ground as they ascend a hill.

(University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

RISE UP: In addition to student choreography, Flight of Sites features the faculty work “May the Road Rise Up to Meet Us,” a quintet choreographed by Wilcox and performed on the hill near Susan B. Anthony Halls. “It’s my exploration of how the hill can signify any personal struggle,” says Wilcox. “I see that there is so much that we have to endure and overcome, so the hill became a great metaphor.”


Drummers and dancers perform West African initiation dance on Eastman Quad.

(University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

SAVE THE LAST DANCE: “Soli & Sorsonet”—the closing celebratory dance—was performed on the Eastman Quadrangle by Sansifanyi, the West African Dance and Drum Ensemble, under the direction of Kerfala Bangoura.


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Category: In Photos