December 8, 2016

Expanding ‘The Living Space’

Webster University modern dance major and choreographer Melanie Harvengt conceived a dance piece she called “The Living Space” as part of her capstone course.

This April, she will perform alongside other dancers an expansion of that piece at the Kranzberg Arts Center on Grand Blvd.

“I’m someone who really likes to see something develop,” Harvengt said.

Exploring tension

Harvengt said the capstone performance was conceived as an exploration of human conflicts and how those conflicts start.

While studying in Thailand, Harvengt said she was in a hostel when she saw a note posted on a mirror. That note was from an anonymous person whose pants were stolen, angry at whoever took them.

Then, the idea for the performance came to Harvengt when she was next to a woman brushing her teeth.  Harvengt said she wondered if the woman next to her was the one whose pants were stolen or if that woman thought Harvengt stole the pants.

Webster dance major Melanie Harvengt (left) goes over moves with student Tayler Kinner (right) during a rehearsal of “The Living Space,” which will run at the Kranzberg Arts Center for two nights. MORIAH BOYCE / The Journal

Webster dance major Melanie Harvengt (left) goes over moves with student Tayler Kinner (right) during a rehearsal of “The Living Space,” which will run at the Kranzberg Arts Center for two nights. MORIAH BOYCE / The Journal

“If you put this object out there, it can sort of create tension,” Harvengt said.

Harvengt said the experience made her think about how one thing can cause heated conflicts. “The Living Space” is about a group of people who live in a house and begin blaming and fighting each other for an unknown reason.

“Nobody really knows what we started fighting about,” Harvengt said.  “There was a lot of tension in that piece.”

Part two

Harvengt said she was ready to leave “The Living Space” alone, but decided there were other aspects she wanted to explore.

“That work was still very much a work in progress,” Harvengt said.

The upcoming performance of “The Living Space” differentiates from the first because Harvengt said she is developing specific characters and creating a story that can be followed.

Junior Jacob Henss, one of the performers, said Harvengt takes into account when planning the choreography the unique movement of the various dancers.

“She comes in with a skeleton [of the choreography] and she molds what we do to fit it,” Henss said.

Harvengt said she wanted to do the piece in a different venue that was more “immersive.” The original was performed on Stage 3, a smaller theater in the Loretto-Hilton Center.

This upcoming piece will be performed at the Kranzberg Arts Center, located on Grand Blvd.

The funding for the performance comes from the Student/Faculty Collaborative Research Grant.

The grant provides assistance to undergraduate students doing research that results in a finished product. Harvengt received this grant to help turn “The Living Space” into a reality.

Harvengt and Kinner rehearse moves for The Living Space. MORIAH BOYCE / The Journal

Harvengt and Kinner rehearse moves for The Living Space. MORIAH BOYCE / The Journal

The grant helped pay Harvengt’s way into the Kranzberg Arts Center as well as help expand the set and props beyond what Stage 3 could accommodate.  Fine arts major Alexa Clavijo, whose emphasis is in sculpture, is designing chairs with portraits of the characters.

“It’s just me trying to embody a few people, some of whom I have never actually met before until now,” Clavijo said.

Clavijo said working with Harvengt is like working with a “parallel version” of herself.

“We’re using different mediums, but we’re saying the same thing, speaking the same language,” Clavijo said.

Harvengt said she wants people to walk away from the performance provoked, not just entertained.  She said she hopes people can walk away thinking about how aspects of the performance applies to their lives, since the piece deals with human relationships.

“That’s what this piece is about for me,” Harvengt said.

“The Living Space” will be performed April 1-2 at 7 p.m.  Tickets are $5 for students and $7 for general admission and can be purchased online at http://thelivingspace.brownpapertickets.com.

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