Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Monday

October 22, 2012

Video: Nature, structure foundation of Academy project

Chaos, disorganization, randomness "¦ Entropy.

As a degree of disorder, entropy seems a natural antagonist to the disciplined world of dance, the intrinsic order of classical music.

A multi-media creation at Interlochen Arts Academy will bridge these boundaries for the next eight months.

The intersection of nature and structure is the foundation of Project Entropy, which features a baby grand piano, musical score and costumes left to the elements. Literally. Everything will remain outdoors through a school year's seasons.

A student musician and three student dancers will periodically revisit these items, adapting the dance, music and garb as needed.

The project kicked off Wednesday afternoon when pianist Ariela Bohrod and dancers Eoin Robinson, Devon Briggs and Jessica Reehorst presented "Kisses for All Seasons." The donated piano, positioned for the journey outside the Corson Auditorium, already lost noticeable tune after just two hours in the elements.

"I'm just really thrilled, the energy was amazing," said Nicola Conraths, an Interlochen dance instructor who choreographed the piece, with input from dancers.

Another Project Entropy performance will be held Saturday, with additional ones scheduled in December, February and May. Each performance will be different as the pianist and dancers adapt to both the weather and deteriorating piano, score and costumes.

"What kind of art would emerge if the fragile conditions we create for performance did not exist?" Conraths said. "How do highly stylized artistic expressions fare when exposed to the elements? What unexpected beauty can be found in EcoArt at Interlochen?"

Inspired by Brazilian artist Christina Oiticica, Conraths brought Project Entropy to Interlochen. Oiticica leaves her canvases outdoors and lets the seasons leave their mark.

"It hasn't really been taken to other art forms," said Conraths of a collaboration that at Interlochen includes instructors Steve Larson (music), Matthew Schlomer (director of band), Amy Long (visual arts) and Lixing Chu (motion picture arts.)

Steve Larson, a collaborative pianist on the project, suggested the iconic Prelude in C Major by Johann Sebastian Bach.

One concession is that the score has been lightly coated with beeswax. It is affixed to the piano, which was donated by John Timm in response to a Craig's List ad seeking the instrument.

"It's all part of an effort to look at art-making in new ways and search for ways to work with nature," said Schlomer of Project Entropy.

The unique project challenges participants in new ways, who never dreamed that their Interlochen years would include "dancing in the elements of nature to the sound of a piano left in the woods."

Senior Jessica Reehorst of Traverse City said Project Entropy offers challenges and rewards as dancers meld choreography and improvisation.

"I try to make the movement as natural as possible and dance in the moment," she said. "This means I am moving according to what I feel or hear, such as the breeze or the sound of the leaves."

Reflecting on the upcoming winter performances, Reehorst and the other students are wary, but undaunted.

"I am excited yet nervous about the rolling in the snow," she added. "It's going to be very cold."

Academic departments are also embracing Project Entropy. For example the science department will grow a fungus on the piano for students to study while the physics instructor will have students track the deterioration of the piano's harp and its effect on vibrations. Motion Picture Arts students are making a movie of the project.

One thing is clear: Project Entropy elicits powerful reactions when people learn about its unusual mission.

"What's very stimulating is that each person we talk to about it has a very different reaction to it," said Schlomer. "Some people are wounded and others are excited."

"At some point the piano will no longer play so the question is how do we still make art from it," he added.

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