Students take part in faculty member’s creation
As the lights dimmed in the Schuler Performing Arts Center, the crowd grew quiet and watched the stage as the cosmic dance “SYM: A Dramatic Dance Symphony” began. “SYM” is a performance written and composed by NIC music instructor Gerard Mathes featuring the direction of Crystal Bain and Joe Jacoby.
Strongly tied to philosophy, each movement in the performance flows through a particular, and often quantum, idea. The first movement, “Creation,” opens slowly with a gentle dance and piercing operatic harmony from Bonnie Mitson, Teri Grubbs and Alyssa Maurer before seamlessly moving into a lively song entitled “The Big Bang” primarily featuring the vocals of Gustave Lester.
As the performance went on, a strange and witty sense of humor could be seen cultivating at times where humor would seem irreconcilable but nevertheless adds to the ingenuity of Mathes unique writing. The piece “Jabberwocky,” based on a poem written by Lewis Carroll, for instance, featured David Mills wildly laughing and jumping around stage like a demented madman, chaotically yelling seemingly-incoherent ramblings before picking up his violin and playing it wickedly. It was the musing of madness that could not but help garner some laughter of sorts from the audience.
Amid the chaos and nonsense of the Big Bang and the Jabberwocky the performance took a change of pace in the second movement to explain the creation of the game of chess. The cast was now found onstage together, dressed in medieval garb standing perfectly still. Each of the characters only moved on cue in a thoroughly specific manner, as if being guided by the spectral force of an invisible and omniscient chess player. With each cue the narrator gave further detail of the game’s history. This all occurred as the music melodically droned on and two characters sat in chair in various postures, repeatedly spouting off cycles of numbers.
The performance picked up pace once again for the third movement which paired the nature of quantum physics with tango dancing as Jacoby sat off on the side of the stage fiddling with an oversized ball of string. The entire movement, which is entitled “Philosophies Scientific (Quantum Physic and Schrodinger’s Cat,)” revolved constantly around the idea that a cat trapped in a box with a decaying radioactive substance and hydrocyanic acid is in the state of being both alive and dead until someone opens the box.
The symphony comes to a close in the fourth movement “The Rise and Fall,” a movement that was strongly influenced by the paintings “Christina’s World” by Andrew Wyeth, “Son of Man” by René Magritte, and “The Fall of Icarus.” The dancers onstage, who began the scene sitting still in chairs now struck poses and lifted each other as Alyssa Maurer sang elegantly. As the music continued the dancers slowly rise and then begin to fall as the paintings projected onto the wall of the auditorium change. Hauntingly chaotic singing pierced the melancholy nature of the movement as the dance continues. The shadows of the dancers moving rhythmically like volatile phantoms on the backdrop of the stage.
The song ended with each dancer leaving the stage one by one and taking a seat in the audience, leaving only Maurer onstage singing operatically before the room grows silent and lights dissolve into darkness.