Water nourishes everyone. It is a staple that is a constant in every day life. Yet for an element that only comes once or twice to Southern California, there is little attention paid to it. Not so for the modern dance students that decided to perform two pieces last week that reflected water and the impact it has on people’s lives.

Inspired by photographer and installation artist Sant Khalsa, whose work in the Boone Family Art Gallery features a water-theme, the modern dance students decided to represent the element through interpretive “Water Dances” filled with swaying arm movements and lots of prayer circles.

The first dance piece took place outside of the gallery. Without a stage, the students cleverly used the space in front of the gallery and the window inside of it to dance for curious observers.

Using flowing arm movements and instrumental music, the students embodied water. The dancers used their arms to reflect the slow pace of a river and quick, fast steps to show the ebb and flow of a powerful tide.

The dancers weren’t long for the outdoors however as they made their way into the gallery while dancing. Once inside, they proceeded to use the entire space to their advantage.

Dancing around the art installations, and huddling in front of one of Khalsa’s photographs of water, made for a visually stunning dance. However, even though the space was a boon to the dancers, it wasn’t for the audience who had to frequently move to stay out of the way. At one point during the performance, one of the dancers accidently knocked over an installation made out of wood.

Despite the accident, Andrea Knowlton, adjunct faculty for performing and communication arts, was proud of her students–not just for their performance, but also for the work they put into creating the dance.

“They [choreographed the dance] completely on their own,” Knowlton said.

The students managed, with only one rehearsal, to show the duality of water that they saw in Khalsa’s art installations and photographs.

The second performance featured intermediate and advanced dancers, under the direction of associate professor of performing and communication arts Cheryl Banks-Smith, which utilized the entire gallery too.

The barefoot dancers in tights and t-shirts spun in counter-clockwise movements around the gallery, stopping to pause in front of one of Khalsa’s photographs.

Their “prayer circles” were often a tangled band of dancers, each frozen in position with the exception of a few whom weaved in and out of their set forms.

As the dance went on in movement, once slow and methodical, it became fast and jerky ending with the dancers coming to an abrupt stop.

“We had this idea of creating this water wheel and that sort of opened up the space and then it was sort of a tribute to the elements,” said Banks-Smith.

The open-ended performance, with its rises and falls, lent itself to the vision the dancers created. One of waters, oceans and the occasional prayer for rain.

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