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Informing the  Berea and Baldwin Wallace University Communities Since 1913

The Exponent

Informing the  Berea and Baldwin Wallace University Communities Since 1913

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Insect research inspires professor-dance show collab: ‘Fyoo Zh En ’24’

The+cast+of+fyoo+zhe+en+24%3A+Spatial+Proximity+rehearses+during+a+run-through+in+Lou+Higgins+Dance+Studio.
Ursula Saadeh
The cast of “fyoo zhe en ’24: Spatial Proximity” rehearses during a run-through in Lou Higgins Dance Studio.

The Baldwin Wallace University Department of Theatre and Dance will return to Kleist’s Mainstage Theatre for their yearly performance of “fyoo zh en” with a show entitled “Spatial Proximity,” turning research about insects into performance art.

“Fyoo zh en” is the annual partnership between a BW professor and directed and choreographed by Sarah Whale, assistant professor of theatre and dance.

This year marks the 10th yearly production of the show and is based on the work of Andrew Merwin, assistant professor of biology and geology. This allowed the choreographers Max Laskar, an alum from the class of 2022, and theatre and dance students, Hallie Harder and Katie Laurez, to transform Merwin’s research about how biodiversity impacts insect populations into dance.

“Initially, the research came from students participating in the BW Summer Scholars Program,” Whale said. “Our choreographers tackled projects ranging from Matt Gesicki’s work interpreting and responding to Pablo Neruda’s Love Sonnets, to Jake Butchko’s Synthesis of a Chiral Ionic Liquid.”

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Whale said she met Merwin during the BW faculty showcase, and after striking up a conversation, she became “fascinated” with his work and inquired about collaboration.

“I like to pick work that neither the choreographers nor I know much about,” Whale said.

The team transforms the area of study into art by having the performers and creative team meet with the faculty partner to receive first-hand information about their area of study.

“During this time, we are also working to create a library of sound and music that might be appropriate, as well as working with our costume, lighting and set designers,” Whale said.

Although the topics are communicated through movement, the directors often seek to take a creative rather than literal approach to the research.

“Rather than creating a narrative, we focus on universal themes drawn from the source that we feel can be successfully communicated through movement and are familiar to our diverse audience,” Whale said.

Whale will retire in May after 15 years at BW making “fyoo zh en” her last choreographed production for the school.

“Being in the rehearsal room with a group full of movement artists who are fearless and willing is one of the most satisfying experiences an artist can have,” Whale said. “This year’s group is amazing, and we can’t wait to share our interpretation of Dr. Merwin’s work with our audiences.”

LaRuez, said that since it was her first year participating in “fyoo zh en,” she was excited for the challenge.

“After our meeting with Dr. Merwin, so many themes jumped out,” LaRuez said. “There’s so much to work with, but it’s also a difficult process. You wouldn’t think to combine insects and dance, but embracing the challenge has been super creatively stimulating.”

Whale will retire in May, after 15 years at BW, making fyoo zh en ‘24 her last choreographed production for the school.

“We really want to make Sara’s last ‘fyoo zh en’ one for the books,” LaRuez said. “I’m so proud of the work we’ve done, and I can’t wait to perform in this amazing show.”

“Fyoo zh en ‘24” will have 13 performers and four understudies. There is a dedicated team working to create the show, including those not on the stage.

“Fyoo zh en 24’” will run from Feb. 21-24 at 7:30 pm, at the mainstage theater of Kleist Center for Art & Drama. Tickets are free and can be purchased online.

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