When Arlon Bayliss designed and created the Helios fountain on Anderson University’s campus, he never imagined it as the perfect setting for a modern dance performance. But the AU professor of art was pleasantly surprised after Thursday afternoon’s presentation of the “Helios Suite” by AU dance majors.
“It was wonderful,” Bayliss said excitedly after the noon show that featured a dance in and around the fountain. “What a treat to have a dance piece choreographed around my work. It was like the dance and the fountain became one.”
A group of 18 dance majors carried out Assistant Professor of Dance Shauna Steele’s vision of the suite at the Helios plaza on the north side of Hartung Hall. Steele said this show was their gift to the community which has been so supportive of AU’s dance program over the years.
She started envisioning the dance during her first visit to AU, even before she’d been hired. She saw the fountain and was intrigued by what she saw. The sun was hitting it just right, creating a splash of colors. The sounds she heard were inspiring.“It was very engaging and triggered my creativity,” Steele said. “And I’d always wanted to do a site-specific performance. I thought this would be perfect.”
Bluegrass tunes seemed to be a fit for the mood and feel that she hoped would translate to the crowd packed around the fountain. The dancers came back to AU a week earlier to prepare for the show that created a unique set of challenges, including bare feet, uneven surfaces, cold temperatures and even spiders.
The first section of the suite conveyed the idea of someone who has a desire to reach out and be a part of something but is not sure how to do it. The dancers were outside the fountain. As the music and dance progressed, some of the dancers were lifted into the air to represent finding a path toward that goal, Steele explained.
The second section was a jig showing the happiness of knowing you’ve found a group of people that understand you. The third section is showing how a community comes together; how everyone needs other people for encouragement. The dancers are getting closer and closer to the fountain.
In the fourth section the students are dancing in the fountain, a celebratory dance splashing about. This, Steele said, represents the joy of knowing you are finally together.
By the end of the dance, the performers were soaked head to toe, but all smiles as the audience clapped and cheered.
“It was like ice cubes,” joked Tralene Baldwin, a sophomore dance major from Frankenmuth, Mich. “This was a very unique experience. I had never done anything like that.”
Emily Miser, a junior dance major from Brownsburg, said most of their work is done in the studio with performances in traditional settings, so this was an exciting opportunity.
“It was nice to see the audience really engaged in what we were doing,” she said. “It was a good bonding experience for the dancers too.”
Baldwin said the best part for her was getting to demonstrate her faith through music and dance during the unusual presentation.
— Abbey Doyle is a reporter for The Herald Bulletin. Story reposted with permission. Photo credit: John P. Cleary/The Herald Bulletin.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology.