Dancing a new symphony

Dancers perform Dorrance Dance for the Spoleto Festival at Memminger Auditorium on Saturday May 31, 2014. Michael Pronzato/ Staff

"SOUNDspace," the epic dance piece created by Michelle Dorrance for her company Dorrance Dance is innovative, experimental and exhilarating. "SOUNDspace" originally was presented as a site-specific work at New York City's St. Mark's Church-in-the-Bowery and has been adapted for Memminger Auditorium and the 2014 Spoleto Festival.

Today's dance companies have to work harder to engage their audiences. Site-specific works are becoming much more commonplace and offer a new take on audience participation. This show begins in blackness with the sound of the dancer's feet. As our eyes adjust and the scene begins to take shape, we recognize a blend of dance genres and footwear.

"SOUNDspace" explores the textures and sounds made by different parts of the feet, creating music through movement. The dancers are both artists and musicians, using only their bodies and the floor to paint the scene. Dancers of different shapes and sizes create a sound profile so unique that one forgets they are manufacturing it themselves.

New ideas in movement emerge, while paying homage to the old. The hypnotic sounds of socks sliding, bare feet padding, leather and aluminum soles stomping come from all parts of the feet - sides, heels, metatarsals. As dancers manipulate the sound dynamics from high to low, soft to loud, they create a whole new type of symphony. Rushing passes across the stage are interspersed with moments of unison and improvisation.

Part of this particular site-specific work includes dancers relocating from the stage to the audience to create a traveling wall of sound throughout the auditorium. The audience doesn't have a choice but to be fully engaged by this piece as the dancers use the entire space and insist we feel their internal rhythm.

Live music by Greg Richardson provided the bass line over which dancers filled in the blanks with improvised movement. Nicholas Young, who provided body percussion, was a living testament to what remarkably creative creatures human beings can be.

Dorrance performs with authenticity, and her connection to her fellow dancers and her audience makes the spectator feel like she's hanging out with a dear friend.

"SOUNDspace" is the sort of ambitious work that is sure to stretch not only how an audience perceives dance, but how artists approach creating dance in the future.

Stephanie Burg is a dancer and holistic health consultant.