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Tom Tom Founders Festival founds new dance experience

Routine marries architecture, uniqueness of Downtown Mall with interesting performance

Downtown came alive for five glorious spring days last week with the sun shining, people swarming and music playing for the Tom Tom Founders Festival. The celebration, held to celebrate Thomas Jefferson’s birthday, included free talks, music, art installations and design events. On Saturday afternoon, concorDance and theMovement Party presented “A Dance Score for the Downtown Mall.”

The show was presented as a walking tour that explored the history and unique topography of area. It was dedicated to Lawrence Halprin, the designer of the Downtown Mall, and his wife Anna.

A quote from Anna Halprin opened the program: “Dance is not about the body as the center. The body is the connection to our surroundings.” The scores were written by seven different community members and took place in seven locations on the Mall.

The first score, which came alive on the staircase outside the Transit Center, was developed by Asst. Engineering Prof. Amy LaViers. The dancers gathered and proceeded to run up and down the stairs, ducking under the banisters and leaping into and out of one another’s way.

After dancing through the carousel, the courtyard, and a few other places, the dancers moved to the arcade and stairwell on First Street. The section of the performance was choreographed by Bernard Hawkins, a spoken word poet.

Through the show, these dancers explored relationships between each other’s bodies and the architecture of the Mall itself. At one point, the girls switched from flat shoes to heels, exploring the new sounds their shoes made as they stomped along bricks and metal grates along the Mall. The girls’ wobbly movements and the clanging echo of the high heels profoundly changed the experience. It was no longer an organic, relaxing space — it became businesslike and foreign.

The crowd had many bemused commenters. Children were baffled by the modern dance and bystanders were sucked into the moving mass. When one dancer lied flat on the ground a child gasped, “she’s dead!” A car passed and the dancer sprung back to her feet and the child announced, “now she’s alive!”

Another man found his path blocked by the dancers. Sporting a pink mohawk with helmet in hand, he muttered, “I’m so confused…I just want my motorcycle.” By moving from place to place and taking advantage of the unique Charlottesville environment, the dance brought together the Downtown Mall and the people within it.