Mississippi: The Dance Company dives into raw emotion for ‘In Real Time…’ performances

Posted on Apr 7 2017 - 11:40am by Jacqueline Knirnschild
Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Ole Miss students, dance professors and instructors have been working long hours to bring the community a tantalizing and eclectic collection of seven unique pieces, one of which earned them an invitation to a regional dance gala.

Mississippi: The Dance Company, Ole Miss’s resident modern dance company, will perform “In Real Time…” Friday and Saturdayat 7:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. . Tickets are $10 for Ole Miss students and are available at the UM Box Office or at the door of the Meek Hall Auditorium 30 minutes before each showing.

Despite the varying themes of each work, feelings of connectivity, tribalism and raw emotion persist throughout the entire show.

The dancers pull you in and then guide you back out, with most pieces beginning and ending in similar patterns. The performers dress in simple costumes and the backdrop, lighting and ambiance is understated.

The dancers do not need extra embellishments – their bodies speak for themselves, literally. Frequently, the music will cut and the dancers create their own rhythm of sound by clapping, breathing or hitting the ground in unison.

“It kind of runs the gamete from the funness of ‘Purple Reign’ and worshipping Prince to pieces that look at life and death issues to self-awareness,” Jennifer Mizenko, professor of movement and dance and artistic director of the company, said.

Productions are diverse and range from student-choreographed tribal-like “Becoming (Hyper) Aware” to Mizenko’s politically-undernoted “Resist 45” and the powerful finale “Attic,” created by guest artist George Staib of Staib Dance Company.

Staib’s work, centering around the feelings and atmosphere related to growing up as a child in Iran during the start of the Iranian Revolution, earned the UM Dance Company an invitation to perform at the South Regional Conference of the American College Dance Association last month.

Staib came to campus for five days during the winter intersession and spent five or more hours daily sweating it out with students. Not only did the students learn “Attic,” but they also added their own personal, creative touches to the piece.

“George’s piece is over an hour long but he took a section of it and kept the structure but then had the kids come up with some of their own choreography,” Mizenko said. “He would give them ideas and tell them to create movement around a concept, and he would put it all together from there.”

“Attic” emits a sense of urgency, fear and foreshadowing— especially with the hectic mixture of various quick, concise movements all occurring at once. An audience member’s eye is constantly being pulled in different directions.

“My favorite part about ‘Attic’ is every time I watch it, I see something new,” Mizenko said. “There is so much going on that different things pop out each time and the kids are always making it fresh.”

Mizenko has been directing the UM Dance Company since 1989, during which time she has led the troupe to the American College Dance Association Conference seven times.

Half of the twenty dancers performing in “In Real Time…” are theater majors, whereas the rest represent other facets of liberal arts.