A Treat for the Eyes and Ears in Heiner

A treat for the eyes and ears awaits the audience this Thursday, March 14, at 7:30 p.m. in Heiner 209. 

Yesterday afternoon, a preview of the collaboration between WCC’s Modern Dance students and WCC’s Contemporary Music Ensemble took place, with the performance highlighting student dance, music arrangements, improvisations and compositions. 

Music students in the ensemble focused on improvisation and exploring the crossover between music and dance. Several pieces were completely improvisational and based on the students’ creative reactions to watching dance. Observations and reactions to dance included observing WCC’s dance classes, which was a collaboration practiced throughout the winter quarter.

Creative response dance
Dance students perform to music created by ensemble students’ improvised response to their choreography.

The show began with modern dance choreographed to student arrangements and compositions. As explained by Pat Nelson of the music department and Soliel Chappelle of the dance department, choreography was designed to a surprising arrangement made for them by the ensemble. In return, the dance students sent back a video of their choreography. The ensemble responded by improvising another piece of music inspired by the students’ dance.

Following the dance numbers the ensemble took the stage and performed several arrangements.

The amusing “Blue Danube March” is a reimagining of Johann Strauss’s “Blue Danube Waltz” by student arranger, composer and saxophonist Michael McKenzie and performed by the saxophone quartet.

Cellist Stephanie Strong
Cellist Stephanie Strong stays focused while performing her own arrangement of John Williams’ “Across the Stars” with the ensemble.

A striking performance was influenced by the Sacrificial Dance from Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” Students read the music in class and created improvisational responses to muted videos of dances choreographed for Stravinsky’s composition. The students did not hear a recording of the music, but the inspiration behind their improvisation was clear.

Cellist Stephanie Strong’s arrangement of “Across the Stars” by John Williams is a beautiful first time effort.

“Mountain,” an original composition by Michael McKenzie, is a fantastic musical journey that reflects high peaks and shadowed valleys and the wondrous experience being in the mountains can be.

The ensemble finished off the performance with an arrangement of “I Wish” by Stevie Wonder, with Nicholas Mangan singing.

All in all, this reviewer strongly recommends you attend this wonderful set of free performances tomorrow, March 14, and enjoy all the talent on display. 

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