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Choreographers and composers collaborate for fourth annual 'Hammer and Nail' concert

WHAT: "Hammer and Nail" presented by IU Jacobs School of Music and IU Contemporary Dance
WHEN: Saturday, April 18, and Sunday, April 19; Program A at 4 p.m., Program B at 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Buskirk-Chumley Theater
TICKETS: FREE; public is encouraged to bring a food donation for Hoosier Hills Food Bank

The Indiana University Bloomington Contemporary Dance Program and Jacobs School of Music Student Composer Association have teamed up for the fourth year in a row to create the "Hammer and Nail" concert. This year's event will feature 14 new works created by a group of 30 student artists.

Hammer and Nail
An IU dancer rehearses for "Hammer and Nail."

The performances will be at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater Saturday, April, and Sunday, April 19, with two programs each evening, at 4 p.m. (Program A) and 7:30 p.m. (Program B). Admission is free, but guests are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item or cash donation as part of a new community partnership, "Dance-Dine-Donate." All donations will go to the Hoosier Hills Food Bank, and those who donate will receive a coupon for participating downtown restaurants.

All composer-dancer pairs began their collaborations in the fall with two- to three-minute "speed dates" in which they discussed what they were looking for in a partner with each of the potential collaborators.

Jonn Sokol, a second-year doctoral student in the Jacobs School of Music, and Utam Moses, a third-year undergraduate in the Contemporary Dance program, were perfectly matched for the project from the beginning.

"I did 'Hammer and Nail' last year and Utam danced in the piece I wrote," said Sokol. "I knew I wanted to compose for this year's concert, and she was the first choreographer that I thought of."

The two say that working together has been very successful. Sokol composed on his own, but said that as they continued to meet and discuss their intentions, "a lot of things began to click."

"As we both talked more about what we were trying to express in the music and dance, we found that a lot of the ideas were fundamentally the same," he said.

Moses said the piece Sokol composed was right in line with what she was thinking. Her original thoughts revolved around playing with time: She wanted to create a tangible environment for the piece that was "otherworldly."

Last summer, Moses studied with Suprapto Suryodarmo, an Indonesian dancer, whose work she says has influenced her own choreographic style.

"He does a lot of slow tempo movement based on a concept space; there's a lot of stillness and slow movement to generate a different sense of time," Moses said.

Hammer and Nail2
Utam Moses rehearses with a dancer for "Hammer and Nail."

When choreographing her "Hammer and Nail" piece, titled "A Strange Peace," she specifically focused on relationships and longing, especially after a trauma.

"For example, after someone leaves you, there's a sense of absence -- either of the self or of a way to relate to the environment -- because your world so completely shifted," Moses said. "There's a slowing down, reorientation when experimenting how to relate again to other people."

The artists say that collaboration between music and dance is a unique, rewarding experience, both visually and mentally.

"It's been so amazing," said Moses. "I find so much inspiration working with other people. The ideas are pushed to another level when you have input from others who are all so passionate about what's going on."

Sokol's ensemble is composed of five musicians, including a vocalist, and Moses choreographed for four dancers. The pair's performance is the first of program B, which begins at 7:30 p.m.

"Hammer and Nail" was originally an annual event put on by the Student Composers Association of the Jacobs School of Music. Each year, the students worked with different instrumental groups -- one year, for example, they composed for piano students, while the next year involved the violin studio. The idea of working with dance students came about through a faculty collaboration between Elizabeth Shea, clinical assistant professor and coordinator of the IU Contemporary Dance program, and Jeff Hass, a professor at the Jacobs School of Music.

"Jeff and I had done a couple projects together, and we had a really good time collaborating music and dance," Shea said. "He told me about the Student Composer Association and the 'Hammer and Nail' concert. He said, 'Wouldn't it be great if they could write works for dance?' And I said, 'That's a fabulous idea!'"

The first year, five composers wrote works for dance and five others wrote for cellists. The concert was held at the Waldron Arts Auditorium, and while it was a very different experience for the composers, the event was "wildly successful," said Shea.

"Everyone was very impressed with what composers and dancers did together," Shea said. "People were flowing out of the doors."

It only took one year for "Hammer and Nail" to become an annual concert. The second year, all student composers in the association were interested in writing pieces for dance. Each year, the concert grew. By the third year, it moved to the Buskirk-Chumley Theater to accommodate the crowd and bring the concert closer to the community.

"The Buskirk is an amazing theatre -- there's a feeling of warmth and community," Shea said. "Our goal is to bring dance to community. That's why it's free and at a theater downtown."

"Dance-Dine-Donate" is a new addition to this year's event. Dancers, composers and other involved faculty will bring donations. The timing of the two programs each night is designed for concert-goers to go to one of the participating restaurants and use the coupon given upon donating non-perishable food items.

"We have students who really care about community health and wellness, so why not turn this into a charitable event as well?" Shea said.