Performance series connects to introspective art in GR winter festival


GVL / Bethann Long

Haley Rosendale, Staff Writer

 The Grand Rapids-based dance company Dancing In The Annex (DITA) is featured in a series of performances during the World of Winter Festival.

The World of Winter festival is a two-month festival in Grand Rapids featuring art exhibits, dance performances, scavenger hunts, storytelling events and more.

The interactive art installation “Affinity” uses sound and light to reflect the way the human brain stores memories. “Affinity” will be displayed at the festival from Feb. 3 through March 5.

DITA is led by Artistic Director Amy Wilson. The dance company does many performances, concerts and collaborations. Wilson and her company have each received local and international recognition, including Art Prize awards in 2014 and 2015.

The piece DITA is performing, “Blocking Out The Darkness,” was set specifically for the performance series at “Affinity.” The piece was partly inspired by Affinity’s 112 points of interaction and 62 different combinations.

This site-adaptive performance will follow an open movement score, allowing for improvisation and spontaneity,” Wilson said. “Directly and in real-time, the piece will respond to architectural features of the installation, the particularities of the audience, and the mutually experienced narratives, blurring lines between audience and performer.”

Being that “Affinity” is interactive, DITA had to connect their piece to the display. The performance series is designed to keep the audience and the dancers engaged and reactive from moment to moment, similar to the art display.

The piece begins and ends in the sculpture, and the dancers respond to the physical structure of the installation as well as the lights and sound,” Wilson said. “We deliberately did not rehearse with a musical score, and since the dancers have only rehearsed and performed in the space once so far, they will be responding in real-time to the music from the sculpture.”

 According to the World of Winter festival’s website, the performances put on by DITA will consist of some improvisation and open movement, “blurring the lines” between the audience and performers.

“Blocking Out The Darkness” took five rehearsals and a total of around 20 hours of group in-studio time according to Wilson, who choreographed the piece. The dancers also prepared by working on their own movements for the performance outside of the group sessions, which began in the beginning of January.

Hannah Sullivan, a collaborator with DITA, said the performance series keeps dancers on their toes. Besides rehearsals with no music, “Affinity” is located outside, meaning the dancers must dance in any weather conditions.

It’s been a joy to move with my fellow collaborators,” Sullivan said. “It’s also hard work to navigate choices around cold weather, concrete and boots.”

The World of Winter festival has over 100 art installations, events, and activities. The festival opened on Jan 6, and will be closing on March 5.