Collaboritve faculty performance to examine ‘Constraint’

Courtesy Photo / Ben Cole
Ben Cole, GVSU Theater profesor, will be participating in the constraint faculty performance

Courtesy Photo / Ben Cole Ben Cole, GVSU Theater profesor, will be participating in the constraint faculty performance

Josh Brunsting

Within a given community, art may be the greatest catalyst for bringing many different people, or even entire groups, together.

A college campus, and its students and faculty, are no different.

The latest collaboration between faculty at Grand Valley State University is a new performance, entitled

“Constraint.” However, this isn’t a normal arts performance.

The one-time performance is, according to a press release, a collaboration between four faculty members, with focuses on dance, music, writing and theatre, with all involved taking on individual “constraints” within their performances.

“‘Constraint’ brings four art faculty members together for a performance based on rules, limitations, timers, etc. – to force us to work under constraint,” said GVSU professor Austin Bunn. “These constraints can be both infuriating as well as truly liberating. We want audiences to feel us working against the clock, under space limitations, or outside of our comfort zones.”

The piece will feature dance professor Shawn Bible, writing professors Chris Haven and Austin Bunn, and music professor Kurt Ellenberger.

“These are not your typical constraints,” said Bunn. “Bible will be choreographing a piece for a space no bigger than a runway of dance mat, Haven will be reading from his work but with some sort of visual element, and Ellenberger will be playing the piano without knowing what he’ll play in advance. I will be performing without truly performing.”

By bringing the different disciplines together, the idea behind the pieces seeks to reach much deeper than a simple collaboration. “This is much more than just bringing a few performers together,” said Bible. “The piece explores the relationship between our individual art forms, within the idea of these collective limitations. How can each discipline work or create under circumstances which provoke new approaches to the creative process and production? This is the central idea.”

This sense of complex collaboration doesn’t stop with what will be performed on stage. The audience itself will become part of the performance in a very singular way.

“The audience can expect to arrive in a dimly lit performance space in which they sit on the stage, rather than separate,” said Bible. “We are blurring the lines between audience and performer to allow closer personal relationships and concept of how we are supposed to ‘view’ or ‘interact’ with art. The audience should expect an amazing evening of innovation, collaboration, and possibilities.”

To Bible, an audience can feel constrained by the music being performed, and it is this feeling that Bible hopes to blur with his portion of the piece.

“You are basically held captive by the notes until the song ends,” he said. “To allow the audience relief throughout the dance, they are encouraged to stand up and change the music track at any time, as many times as they would like. The dance will continue to progress throughout the music changes. The audience interaction will provide a stronger kinesthetic response to the performance, cure their constraint, and allow for an intriguing spontaneous choreographic formula.”

The event will be held in the Louis Armstrong Theatre at 7:00pm tonight. It is free and open to the public. For more information, go to

[email protected]