The Mills Repertory Dance Company (RepCo), comprised of just over a dozen Mills students, finished the year with the culmination of their work through a performance called Luminous Flux.
On the evenings of Nov. 17-18, Mills students and community members flocked to Lisser Hall to see the collection of dances, some newly choreographed by Mills dance faculty as well as selections from Mexican choreographer José Limón’s “The Winged.”
Mills dance professor Kara Davis choreographed two of the four new pieces, alongside the works of fellow Mills professors Shinichi Iova-Koga and Sonya Delwaide.
“Each piece has its own inspiration,” Davis said. But since the end of the presidential election, Davis feels that the tension and anxieties grown out of the election results seeped into the performances. “Without even really talking about it or discussing it, I feel like Shinichi, Sonya and myself all kind of expressed this tension that’s been thick in the air around what’s real and what’s put on the surface.”
Iova-Koga was a driving force in the performance as a whole, his personal style introducing a loose, slightly improvisational nature to the dances.
“Most of my training is not western dance at all,” Iova-Koga said. “So in previous rep. pieces I’ve used either improvisation or material from dancers and rearranged that somehow. This is the first piece in which I spent a lot of time just giving them skills.”
The performance opened with a song from the film “Moonrise Kingdom,“ the dancers moving across the stage in a way that played with weight, at one moment flying across the stage and at another marching heavily, immovably in tight formation. Other pieces played with the ideas of gendered masks, social roles and what happens when the world around us, physically and metaphorically, starts breaking down.
Members of the Repertory Dance Company are required to attend a weekly class of the same name, led by professors Molissa Fenley and Davis. Students in RepCo come from a variety of dancing backgrounds, from graduate students to undergraduates, dance majors to non-majors with an extracurricular interest in dance. Both veteran and inexperienced dancers had to learn new techniques and ways of moving for Luminous Flux.
“It was a foreign way of moving for all of us,” RepCo dancer Jordan Wanderer said.
Many of the techniques used in this particular performance were heavily inspired by martial art forms, such as qigong and kung fu, and heavily involved working with the energy of other dancers.
“It was kind of a sensation based meditative practice,” Bhumi Patel, a graduate student in the Repertory Dance Company said, “as opposed to ‘learn this step, learn this step.'”
Luminous Flux represented the whole semester of training and rehearsal for some of the dancers, and even longer for others.
“For a lot of us, we started working on these pieces in the spring, at least loosely, to various degrees,” Wanderer said. “It’s definitely the culmination of a lot of work and a lot of experiences we’ve had with these choreographers.”
For many of the dancers, dance is not just an academic or aesthetic pursuit, but a way of connecting to the people and the world around them.
“The thing that I take away is how important community and connection is, especially in this particular art form,” Patel said. “We don’t go into a room by ourselves and sit down and work, we come together and we have this community and this sense of connection with each other and that’s the thing that makes this possible.”
RepCo will be having one final performance of solo dancers on Dec. 9, and will begin again next semester with a fresh selection of dances and choreography.