Dancing the night away

Yasmeen Godder sprung into the air in a dance studio on Elm Street on Sunday afternoon. She shouted violent war cries.

Godder, the Israeli choreographer, was imitating Israeli soldiers through movement as an example for the 29 dancers who had come to her workshop in the Broadway Rehearsal Lofts. Her workshop was a preview for the Festival of International Dance at Yale — the first presentation in “No Boundaries: A Series of Global Performances,” presented by the World Performance Project and the Yale Repertory Theatre — which formally begins today and will run through Saturday.

After her performance, Godder taught a class about spontaneous movement and basic senses and feelings, which she said are both conscious and unconscious. She introduced the notion of using movement to elicit a nation’s politics and conflicts.

In fact, this is the purpose of the Festival: It seeks to cross national and cultural boundaries through movement while engaging in scholarly inquiry, several organizers interviewed said. For this reason, it has drawn three internationally acclaimed artists to New Haven: America’s Yvonne Rainer, Kenya’s Opiyo Okach and Israel’s Godder. The artists’ works will be complemented by a series of talks, panel discussions and workshops throughout the week.

Professor Thomas DeFrantz ’80, who is visiting from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to teach “Concert Dance in the Africanist Tradition,” will moderate one of the Festival’s panels, a chance for students to interact with the artists.

“The festival offers an opportunity to think about dance and performance and how these things reach across national boundaries, cultural boundaries, boundaries of gender and sexuality, and remind us what it is to be human,” he said.

Emily Coates ’06, the artistic director of the WPP, said she chose the artists because of their passion as performers and their socially engaging art, each of which comes from diverse locales. Rainer has been a monumental figure in postmodern dance; Godder has crafted Israeli political violence through dance; and Okach concentrates on transnationalism and identity, she said. Okach’s works have circulated between Kenya and Europe but will be premiering in America for the first time.

“The juxtaposition of these artists is extremely important to promote thinking about how the local relates to the global,” Coates said. “One of the main lines of inquiry is what is the power of movement today? What barriers can dance pass through?”

And in this vein, the Festival looks beyond the barriers, studying the meaning of movement, Coates said. It is the beginning of an effort to increase the presence of dance, she said. Dance, she added, has always been like the “stepchild of the arts.”

But this semester, Yale offers an unprecedented three curricular dance courses in the Theater Studies department. This festival, DeFrantz said, is a unique opportunity for a college campus: “Most schools don’t do this,” he said.

But the costs have been surprisingly low given the caliber of the artists and the benefits of the show, said Joseph Roach, the Sterling Professor of Theater. The artists create a world conversation on stage; their shows produce an understanding of how movement can be just as effective as reading texts or listening to music, he said.

“One of the ways to see what is unseen otherwise and to say what is unsaid otherwise is through movement,” Roach said.

Three undergraduate dancers interviewed noted the diversity and talent of the choreographers as well as the opportunities the Festival will provide. The Festival’s workshops and seminars have also created a unity among the Yale dance community, Anna Goddu ’09 said.

“There are almost 500 dancers [at Yale],” Goddu said. “The Festival is a great opportunity to bring dancers from different groups together.”

Yet ten Yale students outside the dance community said they had not heard of the event.

“I wish it were better advertised because I’m very excited to see it,” Kyle Eichner ’12 said after learning about it from a reporter. “There would be a lot of people who would be interested in it who don’t know about it and that’s a shame.”

The Festival debuts tonight with two performances — the first by Godder and second by Okach — at the New Theater.

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