Fifteen dancers skillfully move their bodies around a thick rope. Sweat and the sound of padded footfalls hang in the air. Weber State University’s Moving Company is practicing.
“All of us dancers on Moving Company are really different dancers, who have different body shapes and move differently, but together, we create something amazing,” said Laura Stoddard, a dance minor at WSU and a member of WSU’s premiere modern dance troupe. Dancers in the group come from various dance backgrounds, but work together to create an intricate routine.
“It’s modern dance,” Stoddard said, “which is a lot about expressing yourself through movements that are different from anything else.”
The Moving Company is part of WSU’s Outreach Program. Its goal is to step outside of WSU and get involved in the community.
“A few years ago, we went to the Utah School for Deaf and Blind,” said Maddi Jones, a dancer and dance education major at WSU. “We worked with the kids and incorporated sign language into our dance piece.”
The Moving Company has also gone into different elementary schools to teach the students math and geography through dance and movement object lessons.
“Statistics show that if there is some type of physical activity involved,” Jones said, “children will learn things better, and if they are involved in some type of art form like dance, their test scores are higher.”
The Moving Company is rehearsing three times a week to prepare for this year’s piece, Coil. The 30-minute piece involves 100 feet of two-inch thick rope. Eric Stern, professor of dance at WSU and creator and director of Coil, spent the whole summer researching different types of rope and figuring out what type he wanted to use for this piece.
“Coil is a lot about exploring what we can do with the rope,” Jones said, “either (with) the rope moving us, us moving the rope, or how we interact with each other and the rope. It really is unbelievable how many things you can do with a rope.”
Coil also incorporates John Donne’s famous poetic sermon, No Man is an Island.
“It explores the question of how connected we are to others in society and the world through dance, music and using the rope,” Stern said. “This is the most ambitious piece, artistically, we have ever done.”
The WSU choir is providing the music for Coil by singing live on stage with the dancers for the whole 30 minute piece.
“It’s really exciting because we are incorporating all the art forms and programs at WSU for the performance,” Jones said.
This year, instead of Moving Company members going into elementary schools, they are bringing elementary schools to WSU to see them perform.
“We already have 1,500 kids signed up to come see the outreach performances in March,” Stern said.
The Moving Company is also performing Coil at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research, which is being held at WSU on March 29-31.
“Coil started out with language inspiration, and then we explored the ideas set forth, then created the work,” Stern said. “We created this piece from the ground up, and if that is not research, than I do not know what is.”
In addition to Stern being a professor at WSU, he is a teaching artist with the Kennedy Center’s Partners in Education Program, where he instructs students and educators throughout the U.S. in arts integration. He has also toured throughout North America and worked in Europe as a professional choreographer, dancer and educator.
Students interested in seeing Coil can attend the WSU dance concert on Nov. 17 -19 in the Val A. Browning Center’s Allred Theater. Shows begin at 7:30 p.m.