Faith Morrison, the new artistic director of dance at Willamette, is spearheading a collaborative and experimental Fall Dance Concert with a broad lineup of dance styles.
“This show is a collection of student, faculty and guest artist work, bringing together different choreographers,” said Morrison. “We have a diverse group of dances, which is exciting. We have contemporary dance, jazz and aerial, so this collection of thematic elements all coming together.”
The concert is exploring a broad swath of themes, ranging from human connection to vulnerability, loneliness, celebration and ethereal beauty.
“We are celebrating a very diverse concert this year. Hopefully it has something for everyone,” said Morrison.
Morrison began working with Willamette in the spring semester of 2019. She brings with her experience working in educational and professional dance across the nation. Morrison received her B.A. in Dance from the University of Montana and her M.F.A. in Dance from the University of Oregon. Morrison was recently an adjunct professor of dance at the University of Montana.
According to Willamette’s website, “she has served as a graduate teaching fellow at the University of Oregon (2012-2015) where she taught classes in modern technique, ballet technique, jazz technique and contact improvisation.”
In addition to offering guidance from her extensive background in sundry dance styles, Morrison is incorporating the experimental form of screendance to this year’s fall performance. Screendance is a video medium that combines movement with film.
Morrison’s own screendance project, titled Ensō, received the 2015 Grand Jury Award. Ensō was created in collaboration with videographer Robert Uehlin. The project was set in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area and foregrounds the sensory experience of place as seen through movement. Clips from Ensō of the Oregon Dunes landscape will be projected during the fall performance, and sand will brought on stage as an additional layer of sensory experience connecting to place.
“The intentions behind site-specific dance research has been facilitating a kinesthetic experience of site for the dancers, looking at what energies are at play, how can the environment be reflected through movement, and really, what is the feel of that place. That was the intention in creating movement. And in filming the intention was conveying that feeling of place to an audience,” Morrison said.
Additionally, EJ Reinagel, who teaches aerial, has constructed two apparati “which are artforms in and of themselves,” Morrison said.
She has also brought collaboration to the Fall Dance Concert by recruiting the expertise of professional dancers Daniel Do and Mar Undag. They are based in Salt Lake, UT and connected with Morrison while dancing professionally in Portland. Do and Undag completed an intensive five-day residency program working with four students.
“They work collaboratively as choreographers, and I was interested in having students experience two creative voices coming together,” said Morrison, who is excited to bring professional-level choreography to the show. “This work is bright, bold and unapologetic. It’s closing out the show with very bright costumes and dynamic athletic movements.”
Moving forward with her work at Willamette, Morrison will be teaching two classes next semester with an emphasis on the technical aspect of dance, as well as individual expression.
“I would love to build a program with a strong emphasis on technical training in addition to honoring each individual and cultivating each individual voice in artistic expression,” said Morrison.
She invites anyone who is curious about dance to give it a try: “Right now we are offering a lot of intro classes, and you don’t need any experience to come in, move and express yourself through dance. We have an open door and are inviting any and all who have ever been curious about movement and maybe apprehensive to try, to please come dance with us!”