AMHERST, Mass. – The University of Massachusetts Amherst department of music and dance will present its University Dancers concert “Peril in Thine Eye,” an immersive dance experience inspired by Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” on Dec. 1-3 in the Totman Gym.
Each evening’s performance will loop in three cycles, beginning at 7:30 p.m., 8:15 p.m., and 9 p.m.
Featuring contemporary arrangements of the score from Sergei Prokofiev’s ballet “Romeo and Juliet” and dialogue from Shakespeare’s play, “Peril in Thine Eye”is intended to pull audience members into an evening-length production exploring themes of racial and cultural, sexual and gender, and political and economic tension set in a moody nightclub in a city called Verona.
The production, directed by assistant professor of dance Paul Dennis, brings together elements of dance and theater in presenting action that is layered and fractured with multiple scenes performed simultaneously while several characters develop along parallel timelines.
Working with dramaturge Gaven Trinidad, a master of fine arts candidate in the UMass Amherst theater department, dance students and faculty dissected the plot and themes of Shakespeare’s play, interpreting them through sound, sight, touch and movement.
According to Dennis, this layered presentation of a universally familiar tale tends to de-romanticize the romantic tragedy, and to encourage the exploration of more subtle themes that might not immediately come to mind when thinking of Romeo and Juliet, such as forced marriage, the parent/child relationship, illicit relationships, love and violence, women in society and gender identity.
“As a dance program our aim in this production is to strengthen and broaden our scope, artistic vision, and visibility in the university and region,” says Dennis, who, in addition to his faculty position at UMass Amherst, is a former member of the José Limón Dance Company and associate director of the White Mountains Summer Dance Festival.