Dana Reitz, the first Viola Farber Artist in Residence at Sarah Lawrence College, performed "Some Chamber Pieces" on May 14 culminating her semester here. She demonstrated her use of a light palette while she danced - degrees of light, emanating from above her, from behind, at angles or from the sides; shadows appearing, disappearing; her figure, ethereal in translucent white, fading in and out, suddenly there, just as quickly ceded to the darkness.
A pioneer in the use of light in dance, Reitz was chosen to inaugurate the artist in residence program honoring Viola Farber, who led the dance program at Sarah Lawrence with innovation and spirit from 1987 until her death in 1998.
"Light is my main partner" said Reitz, one Friday afternoon in February as she prepared for a workshop with several dance students. "There are times when I lead the light and times when the light leads me. The magic is to make something else apparent - not just the movement, not just the light." Reitz says her work "interweaves dance and light, and sometimes music - creating a score about the whole. Always movement and light, changing."
The students who would work with Reitz that winter afternoon - Laurel Dugan, a senior, Missy Smith, a first year graduate student, Nyssa Chow, a sophomore, Eric Nordstrom, a sophomore, (who performed their own light and movement pieces on May 14), Ali Daniels '95, a first year graduate student, Ann Fragoso, first year graduate student, Kathy Westwater, a second year graduate student, Philippa Kayes, a first year graduate student, and Tavia Trepte, a first year graduate student waited with restrained impatience to begin their work while Reitz searched for the key to the light panel. They were effusive.
"I get to feel the magic of how the light can change. It's like a canvas."
"It's an idea that makes so much sense."
"You tune in as a performer when you understand the timing of the light."
"We get to look at choreography from the perspective of lighting. The effect has been incredible."
"I've never met anyone who has choreographed with lighting as part of the process. Now I can't imagine not thinking about it."
"We're learning how we can work the lights to our advantage."
"It's totally new."
The semester has been good for Reitz too. "This has been an opportunity for me to concentrate on my work, to challenge myself to go beyond what I know. It's been good to work with the students here. It is always an inspiration for me to see how individuals work and learn."
Viola Farber would have been proud.