The video continues a collaboration with NYC-based choreographer Jesse Obremski and pays tribute to graduating seniors
As the socially-distanced BYU community prepared to celebrate graduation in new and unexpected ways, Contemporary Dance Theatre premiered “Vanish,” a 10-minute video featuring the work of New York City-based choreographer Jesse Obremski.
Keely Song Glenn, director of CDT and producer of “Vanish,” described the video as “a tribute to the vitality of human connection and a hope for the day when we can one day physically connect to each other again.”
In addition to filming the video, CDT performed the piece in their annual concert this February. “Vanish” is set to music by commercial music alum Jarom Hansen and was filmed and edited by media arts alum Scott Cook.
For many students in the company, working with Obremski was a highlight of their year.
“I’ve never worked with someone who puts so much heart into their work and also creates a space of individual self-discovery for their dancers,” said Vanessa Redden, a graduating senior on CDT.
“Throughout the entire process of working with him, Jesse would often remind us that ‘it’s all about the humanity,’” recalled Bronte Hopkins, a dance education graduate. “He is a talented choreographer and such a generous human being. It felt like a journey.”
“Vanish” is the latest product of a fruitful collaboration between Obremski and CDT. In 2018, Obremski choreographed a new piece for the company titled “Opportunity.” The piece received an award at the prestigious DUMBO Dance Festival in New York City last October, with plans to tour the piece to Detroit, Michigan in August 2020.
“I love every moment connecting with BYU,” said Obremski. “I’ve always felt a warm welcome and a sense that the possibilities for art, collaboration and storytelling are available for conversation.”
Obremski’s concept for “Vanish” was inspired by a quote from J. M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan”: “Of course, when you have mastered the action, you are able to do those things without thinking of them, and then nothing can be more graceful.” Obremski’s movement style — influenced by action words rather than static positions — brought this concept to life.
“The piece alludes to the idea that everyone can be recognized, even if not seen physically,” said Obremski. “I feel seen with BYU, and I see and recognize each and every part supporting this collaboration. I know that these connections will be forever.”
Human relationships take center stage in Obremski’s piece, which CDT dancers said drew them closer together as a company and community.
“To see and be seen by others’ is how I would describe what ‘Vanish’ means to me,” said Hopkins. “Those moments in our lives when we all feel so small and insignificant, but are reminded moment by moment that we matter and our worth is much greater than we can understand.”
The themes expressed in Obremski’s piece feel especially relevant at a time when many are adjusting to feelings of isolation during COVID-19, when “to see and be seen by others” looks very different than it did just a few months ago.
“The movement in ‘Vanish’ explores the intricate experiences of connection among people — loneliness, a warm embrace, peaceful solace, seeking others and community,” said CDT dancer and MDT graduate Taft Robinson.
The dancers felt ‘Vanish’ take on more and more meaning with every rehearsal and performance, especially when they performed it for what would be the last time.
“Each time we ran this piece, I found a deeper connection to the movement and my fellow dancers,” said Redden. “The final time we performed the piece, I truly felt immersed in the movement, the music and the people. The range of human emotion that I felt in those 10 minutes was an experience I never want to forget.”
“Vanish” was especially meaningful for the seniors in the company who suddenly found themselves unable to finish out their final moments with CDT — and in some ways, the video provides a sense of closure.
“While my final season was cut short, these memories that dance has given me will never vanish,” said Redden. “It was a perfect unexpected ending.”