Philip Glass’ String Quartet No. 3 (Mishima) rolls out of the speakers, filling Mather Dance Center like a shimmering stream. The rehearsal of Time River proceeds smoothly as the choreographer, Chun-Jou Tsai, watches via skype from Boston as the 8 dancers spiral around the floor of Cleveland’s 100-year-old dance space. The actual skype connection worked fine but there had been some adjustments, all laughably non-technical.
Midway through the rehearsal the dancers paused to rearrange camera and monitor. “It’s video etiquette,” explained Artistic Director Gary Galbraith. “When the camera and the monitor are facing upstage center, the dancers can look at Chun-Jou on the monitor and she sees them looking at her.”
Tsai originally choreographed Time River for her thesis concert in 2013 and Case is taking the highly unusual step of remounting it for the upcoming spring concert. Karen Potter, Department Chair, says she can’t think of another such case in the last 15 years. Even watching in rehearsal, we’re inclined to agree that it’s an unusually good piece of student choreography.
Choreographing Time River, Tsai was inspired by the passage of time and how time makes change within a group of people. We were impressed that she manages to suggest her theme without dramatizing it and that she maintains interest throughout a 15 minute dance despite dance vocabulary with a low level of difficulty.
As Potter says of Time River, “You see how the seed idea develops throughout the dance, how it emerges in each of the 3 sections of the dance. For instance, she groups people in linear patterns so that they suggest metaphors for the passage of time. A line of people comes to seem like the pendulum of a clock or a hand on a clock.”