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Prop Masters

Kinetics Dance Theatre Uses Uncommon Inspirations for Imprints

Kinetics Dance Theatre’s "Trash Suite" will be part of a concert in Columbia Oct. 28

By D.C. Culbertson | Posted 10/25/2000

Some choreographers get their inspiration from dreams. Some get it from music. Others get it by simply improvising in the studio. But Priscilla Kaufhold, director of Ellicott City's Kinetics Dance Theatre, creates pieces inspired by the detritus of everyday life, things like trash, mosquitoes, and marine mammals--and then she dresses those odds and ends up with a variety of props. Some of her unconventionally inspired and accessorized dances will be showcased at Imprints, a concert Kinetics will present Oct. 28 at Columbia's Jim Rouse Theatre.

Kaufhold comes by her affinity for props honestly; she's the resident costume designer at Millersville University in southern Pennsylvania--and has access to more than 12,000 of the costume shop's items. "Props are just fun," she says. "It's nice that each piece isn't looking like the others. Props make it stick out."

Props play key roles in some of Imprints' eight performance pieces. Kaufhold's husband and fellow Kinetics company member, Jef Kaufhold, contributes "Stick It," a Stomp-like piece in which three dancers clad in painter's overalls play with 6-foot poles; in "Haberdash," Jef Kaufhold pulls various hats out of a large suitcase, his character changing personality with each hat change. For the four-part "Trash Suite," the couple collaborated on a performance piece inspired by school workshops in which children make items out of recycled materials. Dancers in "Trash Suite" make origami cranes out of discarded newspapers, play a percussion accompaniment on glass jars, and wear Caribbean-style costumes adorned with bottle caps. In a grand finale, set to the strains of Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man," the dancers appear dressed as American icons such as a baseball player, a bald eagle, a flapper, and a cheerleader--with their outfits made almost entirely out of plastic refuse like soda bottles, police tape, and detergent containers.

Kaufhold says the fascination with props, which has characterized many of her works over the past two years, may be peaking. "I've been kind of on this slant of doing humorous pieces," she says, "just not dancing for dancing's sake." She says she'd like to return to pure movement, and to this end she's resurrected "Soundings," which she originally created in 1984 after being inspired by the seals, walruses, otters, and other marine mammals she observed during a two-year stint working in a National Zoo gift shop. "I've always loved the water," she enthuses. "Water just flows--it's kind of true to my heart."

Three of the pieces in Imprints were used in a July concert Kinetics gave at Washington's Dance Place. While Kaufhold says she didn't want to literally repeat the program for the upcoming show in Columbia, she lacked the time to put an entirely new show together. So she invited two Baltimore-area dance studios, the Diamond Dance Co. and Peoples and Clark Dance Co., to present works as well. The addition of the other dancers, she says, "gives an audience more variety."

Julie Peoples-Clark, one half of the Baltimore-based Peoples and Clark Dance Co.--and a former member of Kinetics--says she was happy to oblige when Kaufhold approached her and partner/husband Dave Clark about participating in Imprints. "I really enjoy her work," Peoples-Clark says. "It's so light and accessible--and so is she."

The Peoples and Clark company will dance "Significant Other,"a newly commissioned piece by Goucher College dance instructor Juliet Forrest. "In the beginning, we're doing all these definite poses," Peoples-Clark says. "Then it starts to melt into movement and then back into these really striking poses."

The other participant in Imprints, the Forest Hill-based Diamond Dance Co., includes Victoria Francese, who's also a member of Kinetics. At the Columbia concert, Diamond will present Francese's "Why Should the Heart Not Dance?," which Kaufhold says she originally saw when it premiered in March at Towson University. The piece was inspired by an image of children running through a field full of flowers; "I wanted to create a piece with continuous motion," Francese says. Of watching "Heart Not Dance" unfold, Kaufhold says, "Your eyes are all over, and it's lovely."

"One thing I love about Priscilla is her desire to love and appreciate artists in the same area," Francese says. "It's awesome to meet someone who wants to encourage other people. She puts her heart and soul into what she's doing, and she appreciates that in other people."

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