The Beat previews the Ohio State University Department of Dance program DIRT, with professor and choreographer Esther Baker-tarpaga
What The Beat wanted to call "dirt-y dancing," Ohio State University Department of Dance chair Susan Petry better labeled "agri-culture."
Yes, the upcoming OSU School of Dance performances will take place on the dirt floor of an animal show ring, in the university's Plumb Hall.
"Given Ohio State's history as a land-grant institution, this will be an apt celebration of the agricultural economy of Ohio coupled with culture and creativity. A new meaning, perhaps, of agri-culture," Petry said in a statement.
"We're excited to work in the dirt," professor and choreographer Esther Baker-tarpaga told The Beat. "We dig in it, throw it, smoosh our feet in it. We use water. We really built a lot of the choreography around it, to examine how the environment influences the choreography and the movement."
Baker-tarpaga said the department's home in Sullivant Hall is in the middle of a reconstruction project, so finding alternate space for student performances has been a necessity. She said the idea of site-specific work, while driven by practical purposes, has taken on creative ones as well.
"One piece is called Oh Darling – The Dust Never Settles," Baker-tarpaga said. "There are places where we kick our leg up, kind of animal-inspired."
She said that sand has also been added to the arena floor, adding a different tactile element to the dance, not to mention different themes.
"We make sand castles, then run and tear each other's creations up. There's a look at human struggle," she said.
The program will include both recorded and live music.
Audience seating will be in a kind of semi-circle, Baker-tarpaga said, in raised wooden fold-down seats that will have audiences looking down on the dance floor rather than up to a stage. The Plumb Hall arena is rarely used, she said.
The audience will be close to the action, but perhaps not as close as in a studio dance setting.
Baker-tarpaga said the students have taken to the environment, but not without making some adaptations.
"It is hard. You get dirty," she said. "They discovered they need to wear socks and high water pants. And goggles."
"I don't think they'll ever forget this piece."