Story last updated at 1:59 p.m. Thursday, May 30, 2002

Dancers interpret Bishop's Beach
by Carey James
Staff Writer

photo: entertainment
  Photo by Alejandro Barragan
Dancers with the "Look Again" project.  
Bishop's Beach has long been a pulse of Homer, from the early 1900s when the entrance to the slough provided safe docking, to today when low tides turn the beach into a playground, a ceremonial site as well as the source of stones for gardens and coal for fires.

A dance troupe has undertaken the daunting task of reflecting the beach's many uses as well as the community's connection to this multifunctional place as part of a series of performances stretching from Homer to Fairbanks.

"Look Again," an interpretive dance series organized and performed by the University of Alaska Theatre and Dance department, will be performed on Bishop's Beach at low tide on Saturday from 2-4:30 p.m. About 12 dancers, including recent Homer High School graduate Mariah Thomas, are expected to perform the thematic dance.

The dance production is part of a series of six site-specific movement-based performances that will interpret spots in Fairbanks, Anchorage and Homer. The project is the brainchild of Associate Professor Jill Flanders Crosby of the University of Alaska Anchorage Department of Theatre and Dance, who has brought nationally recognized director and choreographer Brian Jeffery of Chicago to Alaska to work on "Look Again."

In addition, artists, historians, architects, scholars, writers and performers have all contributed to the project. Among those is Bunnell Street Gallery's Executive Director, Asia Freeman, who said she met Crosby and Jeffery after they came to the gallery following a walk on the beach.

"We found we could really understand each other," Freeman said.

For her, Freeman said, the beach not only holds the footprints of today, but those of the past.

"Bishop's Beach seems to embody an intersection of community attachments. Its history as a convenient

resource to our pioneering roots has slowly inspired increasing recreational and subsistence use to the point where now we must consider the sedimentary impact of multi-use," she said. "What (the dancers) wish to do is imply the whole history and diversity of (the beach's) uses on an emotional level."

Freeman said the fact that the beach's use has been examined more closely during the past year through the city's beach policy task force only makes its selection as one of the "Look Again" sites more appropriate.

"Walking on the beach, at times I feel that it's getting worn out, loved to death, a long scar marking the edge of what humans can easily access. At other times, the durability of the beach, its beauty in all seasons inspires faith in my own durability. For these reasons, and all the expectations we have of this site," she said. "The recent discussion has added another layer to our relationship to the beach."

Freeman said, however, that while some people may see the performance as an environmental statement, dance, like any art form, is fully interpretative.

"Dance is just dance. It can have a political interpretation, but that's just an interpretation of it," she said. "Perhaps the "mute" and poetic language of dance can empathetically speak for the beach and some of its stories."

Dancers will focus on rehearsed themes, Freeman said, but the entire work is not a rehearsed one. Dancers will react within the themes, making the performance a one-time event.

After the dance, an informal discussion about the performance will be held at the Bunnell Street Gallery at 7 p.m. Saturday. Freeman said the directors of "Look Again" are eager to involve the community, hear feedback and thoughts about the site-specific performance as well as about Bishop's Beach.

"A primary purpose of the 'Look Again' project is to provide experiences in which the performing and visual arts will heighten and impact the spectator's awareness to their sense of place," said promotional literature provided by the events organizers. "It is with this intention that we join performance, installation and the environment for display, discussion and

interaction."

In addition to Homer, the dancers will perform in Anchorage at Ship Creek, on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, on the mud flats and in a downtown vacant lot and in Fairbanks at the Chatanika gold dredge. There is also a photo exhibit of the dance sites on display at the Anchorage public library and several discussions will be held in June relating to the project, the environment and our place in it.

For more information on "Look Again," contact the Bunnell Street Gallery at 235-2662.

In conjunction with the performance, two dance workshops will be taught by the dancers in the project. On Friday, a salsa dance workshop will be held at The Studio on Bunnell Avenue at 7 p.m. On Sunday, a modern dance workshop will take place at 11 a.m. at the same location. Each workshop costs $7 for members of the Homer Council on the Arts and Bunnell Street Gallery and $10 for nonmembers. Register at the council by calling 235-4288.

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