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11 février 2007

Eclectic music inspires choreography

VU ensemble creates dance story to Peter Gabriel's songs

Setting Peter Gabriel's eclectic songs as a theme for a dance performance has benefited both the performers of the Valparaiso University Dance Ensemble and its staff.

"We're expanding their music repertoire, which is kind of fun as a teacher," said Ann Kessler, ensemble co-choreographer and an associate professor of theatre at VU.

"Sometimes you can't ever teach a kid something new, because they know everything, so it's nice every once in a while to be able to do something like this, and it's also something where you're not repeating yourself."

Scheduled to perform today through Sunday at the University Theatre at the VU Center for the Arts, Kessler came up with the idea of setting the Gabriel's multigenred music to original choreography with Kathleen Dominiak, an adjunct assistant professor of theater and co-choreographer.

Both instructors, Kessler said, have been longtime fans of Gabriel's music, which has melded pop and rock with world music and rhythms over three decades. Along with Michigan City VU graduate student Derek Bolka, the choreographers have created a nine-song, 40-minute piece.

"His music is so interesting and his lyrics are so interesting," Kessler said.

"But sometimes they're not easy lyrics. There's images of religion and images of love lost and love gained. Sometimes (the music) is very, very happy, but the words are very insecure -- this is kind of a way of handing down a tradition and keeping his music alive."

Combining long-loved classic rock staples such as "Solisbury Hill" and "In Your Eyes" with deep cuts such as "Here Comes The Flood" and "Excellent Birds (This is the Picture)," the trio have created a running story about two people who must deal with the world around them after being pulled into a painting for the 35-member ensemble's performance. The trio have also included a pair of instrumental pieces penned by Gabriel for the soundtrack to the 1985 film "Birdy."

Kessler said many of her dancers, at first, could not see how the songs were going to connect to tell the story.

"It was hard for them to see how this all made sense," she said. "But in December, before we all left for (holiday) break, we ran all the pieces in order for the first time, and they started to see how all these (songs) connected."

Times Correspondent


Valparaiso University Dance Ensemble

When: 8 tonight, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday

Where: University Theatre at the VU Center for the Arts, Valparaiso University, Valparaiso

Cost: $15 adults, $10 senior citizens and students

FYI: (219) 464-5162 or

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