Geological dance makes its Temple debut

Upcoming performance explores the geological features of the Earth with harmonious dance movements.

GeoDance: “Geological Dance.”

“I just put the two together. I thought it had a nice ring to it,” Jennifer Conley said about the title of her Earth-inspired show.

Barefoot dancers fall into static movements, which are in sequence with piano beats and chords. Their movements resemble different yoga poses that create this style of dance.

“Just follow the music like a maniac,” Conley said to her dance trio during a rehearsal.

Piano accompaniment is the only music throughout the show. The dancers move with the music to create the feeling of each geological theme.

The show is comprised of five parts. Each section is a different inspiration from a geological component: “The Deep Time Waltz,” “Gaia Theory,” “Anatomy of Geysers and Hot Springs,” “Poetic Exploration of Death Valley” and “Plate Tectonic Theory.”

GeoDance has three dancers who have been working together all year. Last year, the dance started during a workshop, which then grew into a longer piece for the upcoming show. The women in the trio have been rehearsing with Conley about once a week to create a concrete dance progression.

The rest of the show is comprised of two solo numbers, a short film and one piece performed by sixteen dancers from Franklin and Marshall College.

Conley started thinking about GeoDance after a trip to Death Valley National Park in June 2008. Since then, her work has become a collaboration of dance, geological lecture, spoken word, video, costume and music. She presented her proposal this year and received a grant from the Provost’s Commission on the Arts for the performance.

Rehearsal for the piece “Anatomy of Geysers and Hot Springs” has been a work in progress since the summer of 2008. The eight-minute dance number was inspired by the geysers and hot springs of Yellowstone National Park. The technical aspects of the movements, however, came from her dance background at the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance.

During the piece, the dancers lie on their sides on the floor and press their ears to the ground as if to listen to the hot springs. For eight minutes, the women run, jump, chassé, leap, roll, pulse and move with the music.

Another theme in the show is a reflection on Gaia theory, a theory by James Lovelock. Conley said this theory explains how the Earth is a living organism and is a self-regulating homeostasis. The biosphere, hemisphere and atmosphere all work together to keep a balance.

Conley said she sees such beauty in the idea of working together to create balance in the Earth. Her show, however, is a beautiful reflection of the creative balance between the varieties of art.

The show’s music was directed by Conley with input from the composer Pat Daugherty. From there, the dancers found their movements by listening and feeling the music.

Leigh Mumford and Gregory Powell, who arranged the lighting and designed the costumes for the show, respectively, pulled inspiration from both the musical and dance aspects from the show.

Conley is currently a teaching assistant and is working toward a doctoral degree at Temple. She has always had a great passion for the Earth and the way nature moves and evolves. She incorporates this geological feel in her modern dance class.

The whole show is a creative exploration of the geological Earth and is outlined in the program. By bringing all of these things together, Conley was able to find a balance and harmony for her own work.

“Sometimes she would talk about how our hips and such move like rocks,” Theresa Mink said.

GeoDance premieres Feb. 13 and 14 at 8:00 p.m. in the Conwell Dance Theater, Conwell Hall (on the corner of North Broad Street and Montgomery Avenue). Tickets are $20, $15 for students and senior citizens, $10 with Dance USA Philadelphia Dance Pass and $5 for students with an OWLcard. Tickets are available at the Liacouras Center box office.

Elizabeth Grossman can be reached at

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