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Mellon Grant helps W&L’s Jenefer Davies Plan Aerial Dance Performance

Jenefer Davies, visiting assistant professor of dance at Washington and Lee University, has been awarded an Andrew W. Mellon Grant through the Associated Colleges of the South.

The $7,700 grant will be used to create an aerial dance performance on the side of Wilson Hall. The performance will be a combination of dance and climbing. Davies and James Dick, W&L’s director of campus recreation, have been working on this concept for over two years. They hope to stage the performance in May 2009.

“I will develop the vocabulary of movement based on the freedoms and limitations of the apparatus (climbing gear), teach the students this vocabulary and choreograph the dances,” said Davies. James Dick will collaborate with a professional rigging company who will come to W&L and oversee the technical aspects of the rig.

The performance event will have students rigged in mountain climbing harnesses, lowered onto the side of Wilson Hall from the roof. The side wall of the building will serve as the stage for the performance.

“This student-based performance project was inspired by my past experiences using professional dancers,” said Davies.”One year I created a show in which dancers were suspended 60 feet from the top of the Center in the Square building in downtown Roanoke.”

This type of performance is very physically demanding. The dancers must have the strength to hold themselves parallel to the ground, while being graceful and fluid in their movements. “It is my hope that the physicality will inspire both male and female students to participate,” said Davies.

“It will be great working with students in a way much different than on natural rock on the side of a cliff,” said Dick. “Some of our students who learn the technical aspects of rock climbing anchors use that knowledge later on in life in many ways. I look forward to getting them out of their comfort zones on top of a building right here on campus.”