Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs

News Release

Contact: David Booth / Jessica Custer, NIU School of Theatre and Dance
(815) 753-1337

April 7, 2006

NIU Spring Dance Concert features
new works by guest directors

DeKalb — Northern Illinois University faculty member, choreographer and movement specialist, Deborah Robertson, has created a new physical theatre piece for the School of Theatre and Dance Spring Dance Concert running April 27 through April 30 in O'Connell Theatre.

Robertson describes her work, “Dresses in Words,” as an unusual presentation for a dance concert, because it incorporates many aspects of art. “This piece is multidisciplinary – it includes a diverse group of performers representing all areas of the College of Visual and Performing Arts. ‘Dressed in Words,'” she says, “is a dynamic and gesture-rich piece full of vivid images.”

She discovered her inspiration for this piece through a distant relative and California painter, Irene Belknap. Belknap created a series of oil on linen paintings known as the “Dressed in Words” series. Three of these paintings (“Ithaka,” “Distance” and “Time”) were particularly inspiring for Robertson. She has since used them to form original choreography and music for her dance piece that she also calls “Dressed in Words.”

The words, as seen in Belknap's paintings, are similarly woven into the dance performance, appearing as projected images, spoken words and costumes. The costumes mimic the word-covered skirts worn by the women in the paintings. So, not only are the performers covered in words, they also speak them and convey the message of those words through their movement.

Robertson, who also performs in “Dressed in Words,”says that this show “asks big life questions through art.” On a stage set symbolically with giant picture frames, the actors, dancers and musical performers explore the natural beauty of the progression from life to death. The costumes, movement, sounds and use of light converge to re-create on stage Belknap's vision of life's journey from youth to old age.

The focus on the journey of life is particularly poignant for Robertson. After losing both parents within a very short period of time, Robertson became more aware of the process of living and dying and the natural wonder of that process. Personal discussion with friends and associates during the development of this original work led Robertson to dedicate this performance to her parents and to those who have ever lost a family member.

The three paintings on which the movement piece is based were included because time and distance are essential to any journey, be it physical, mental or emotional.

“Ithaka ,”so named for the inclusion of the poem of the same name by Constantine Cavafy, is about the journey of life. The painting contains the words of Robert Frost's “The Road Not Taken,” two original poems by Belknap and an excerpt from Charles Mee's “Summertime.”

The painting called “Time,” containing the works of Thomas Mann, Horace and Kierkegaard, explores the nature of time itself.

“Distance” uses the work of Proust and Japanese Haiku to show distance as a physical measurement and as a psychological device.

“Dressed in Words” will be performed as part of the NIU School of Theatre and Dance Spring Dance Concert , playing at the Stevens Building O'Connell Theatre April 27 through 30. Weeknight and Saturday performances start at 7:30 p.m. and the Sunday performan is at 2 p.m. Tickets are $14 for general admission, $8 for seniors and $7 for students. Ticket reservations are available by contacting the Stevens Building Box Office at (815) 753-1600. More information is available online at

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