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You might assume Brigham Young University dance students draw their inspiration from above, but this year the student company found its muse in Arizona's Sonoran desert.
DancEnsemble students and faculty advisers spent three days at Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural masterpiece Taliesin West in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains near Scottsdale, studying the permanent exhibition of 85-year-old sculpture artist Heloise Crista.
Dance faculty adviser Pam Musil got the idea for students to base choreography on Crista's work when she viewed the sculptures at Wright's Western home last year. "There was movement inherent in these sculptures and I could see that she understood the human body," Musil said.
The dance students soon realized that inspiration is only a starting point. "Creating art from art is interesting because you feel a need to stay true to the essence of the original work without repeating or copying it," said Aubry Madsen, a student choreographer.
Creating a dance piece based on a sculpture was only one of the challenges student choreographers faced for the concert. A decision to team with music composition faculty and students required student dancers to collaborate on every aspect of the production. They worked with multiple videographers, costume and set designers, musicians and Heloise Crista herself.
BYU TV documented the process, which will be included in a television series on creativity and inspiration. "They began filming in some of our very first concept meetings and followed us through the entire process," Musil said.
BYU took 11 student choreographers, four dance faculty members, two student cinematographers, one student sound technician and one professional documentary filmmaker on the trip to Arizona.
Visiting professor Karen Jensen coordinated the video footage that will be used in the live concert and oversaw the documentary.
"I have collaborated with the choreographers in using video directly in their dances, which is a first for nearly all of them," Jensen said. She enjoyed being "a fly on the wall" and watching the students' creative process for the documentary.
The students were especially excited to hear that Crista plans to attend their performance on Friday, Nov. 18 a symbiotic evening considering Crista accepted a Frank Lloyd Wright Fellowship in dance nearly 50 years ago. Musil believes Crista's background in dance informs the sense of movement and ever-present subject of individual transformation in her sculpture. Musil hopes the concert will help audiences appreciate both forms of art.
"Our goal is to inspire and touch hearts and communicate something that perhaps can't be communicated in any other medium," she said.
Creating art from art
The Brigham Young University department of dance presents dancEnsemble's concert "Transformations."
When • Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 17-19, 7:30 p.m.; with a 2 p.m. matinee Nov. 19
Where •Dance Studio Theatre, 166 Richards Building, BYU campus, Provo
Info • $6; at 801-422-7664 or at byuarts.com.