Move through history, meditate in the present: Dance at Williams Visual Arts Center connects art and motion

Art often sets out to move the audience in some manner, at least emotionally. But an art gallery rarely moves itself.

This past Sunday, the Grossman Gallery was the site of a kinetic revival of history. Sponsored by Choreographers on Campus, an initiative by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the exhibit explores the themes of value, matter, water and community. The performance, created by choreographer Jessica Warchal-King, was meant specifically to accompany artist Alison Saar’s exhibit, “Breach,” in the Williams Visual Arts Building.

Members from the Lafayette College and Easton communities were joined by professional dancers from The Embodiment Project on Sunday to interact with audience members and Grossman Gallery through dance and sound in the exhibit “Breach: Left Behind.” The music, composed by Muhlenberg College musician Paul Fejko, featured simple elements, like running water, to accompany the theme of both Saar’s art and Warchal-King’s choreography.

“Alison’s work is so multi-textured and multi-layered” Warchal-King said. “She’s talking about despair and challenge and oppression in ways that are really beautiful.”

Both Warchal-King and Saar have conducted extensive creative research on American rivers and the human relationships that they foster. “Breach,” a creative representation of Saar’s response to the 1927 flood in Mississippi, also ties in the connection between African Americans and rivers throughout history.

“The dance became a narrative… when [the dancers] are pounding on the walls, it sounds like levees do before they fall,” Saar said. “I felt that [the dance] really added a lot to the exhibition and the work”.

Following the performance, all in attendance were ushered to the outdoor plaza to participate in a Movement Meditation Mandala, lead by Warchal-King. Participants formed a large circle and called out intentions for the practice. Words like “world peace,” “gratitude,” “productivity” and “love” filled the air. After traveling in a circle, participants would gather in the center of the circle to form shapes that embodied that intention. The Tibetan Mandala practice was used provide stability and focus to participants.

After the Mandala, guests were invited to mingle with the dancers and Saar. The afternoon was a refreshing perspective on history combined with a grounding dose of human connection and reflection.

written by Katie Gonick ’20