IU junior Cameron Barnett approached Showalter Fountain from the middle of Seventh Street. He pondered the sculpture and surroundings, eyes wide as if in amazement. Those who noticed him watched and giggled. Then, he danced.
A dance group directed by Barnett performed the dance-theater event “Fountain Scenes” at Showalter Fountain on Aug. 21.
“Fountain Scenes” focused on how “our lives intersect and lead us all to be here, right now, at Indiana University,” Barnett said.
Scenes used both dialogue and dance to present the three-act show.
The first act, “Parade,” had the audience sitting on the fountain as the dancers circled around them, describing the space’s significance. Then the group broke into dance, each performer moving closer and away from the next, sometimes fleeting, sometimes lingering.
“It’s kind of on the spectrum of realism to abstraction,” Barnett said. “There are some moments that are very much cohesive stories that are happening in places, and some that are drawing abstractly from the space and the atmosphere.”
Guided by the theme of “Here and Now,” the audience witnessed moments of friends meeting and strangers passing. Some audience members witnessed one or two of these moments, while members on the opposite side of the fountain saw the others.
Barnett said he wanted to use Showalter Fountain in interaction with the audience because it is an unorthodox venue.
“It’s important to acknowledge you’re in a different space and things happen differently than they do on stage,” Barnett said in an interview.
In the second act, “Vignettes,” a duet portrayed a story of good friends chatting about a man's aggressive attempts to give one of them his phone number. At the same time on the other side of the fountain, another duet answered audience questions with dance. A third group invited people to hug a tree with them as a group member danced around it.
A lot of the show is improvisation, dancer and IU sophomore Victoria Antonini said.
“We were given ideas and set patterns to follow, but a lot of the movement and text is improvised,” Antonini said.
Barnett said he was inspired to create “Fountain Scenes” after attending the BATES Dance Festival in Lewiston, Maine, which used a similar model of spacial dance and storytelling. He said he also wanted to create something new.
“I’m kind of tired of seeing dance on stage,” Barnett said. “I want to see something different, and I want to make something different.”
With that, Barnett contacted other dancers before moving back to Bloomington. Once there, the group only had the weekend to rehearse.
“We started rehearsal on Friday,” Barnett said. “ It’s something we put together spontaneously.”
The group created their moves and dialogue in that time. They still used some improvisation and an overall structure to keep the show on track.
With a brief rehearsal period and a dynamic set, Antonini said she hoped for a lot of audience interaction.
“We want the audience to feel as if they’re a part of the show,” Antonini said. Around 40 people gathered around the Showalter Fountain to watch the group's performance.
The third act, “Convergence,” brought the dancers together to display a moment from each vignette. With the sculpture of Venus in the backdrop, they coalesced into a final pose, each dancer in contact with another.
The audience applauded. Then the group ran away, down towards the other side of the theater building.
“That was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen,” an audience member shouted as the last dancer disappeared behind a building.
Following the event was a cupcake social, where the dancers chatted with the audience. Cream-and-crimson cupcakes were passed out.
Barnett said he wanted to use this as an opportunity to get inspiration for future site-specific projects.
“It’s not something I’ve been planning for years,” Barnett said. “It’s really just something that came from us, putting something out there.”
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The IU Auditorium, the Jacobs School of Music and MidWay Music Speaks were all awarded funds.
Performances will take place on Zoom.
The concert airs at 9:30 p.m. on July 25.