A Performance choreographed by David J. Popalisky, SCU Director of Dance

by Patrick Lydon

A small, contemplative crowd gathered outside at Santa Clara University this past Sunday, curiously following a wandering, colorfully dressed ‘bag lady’ and her intriguing worldly soundtrack from the Mission Church Gardens to the Library Commons, and finally to the north side of the university campus.

The Wanderer Figure in David J. Popalisky’s Migrations was performed by Sally Mitchell.  photo: Patrick Lydon

At each of the locations, the wandering woman summoned a group of dancers to perform works based on “intersecting motion of migrating humans and animals”, or, at least this is the recount of choreographer David J. Popalisky, SCU Director of Dance and creator of this outdoor dance experience titled Migrations.

Dancers develop the theme of migration — both human and animal.  Photo: Patrick Lydon

Including transit time between each piece, the performance lasted around an hour, snaking its way through the university campus and taking the audience through three movements, each seeming to sight some aspect of duality or juxtaposition of opposing forces, illustrating the beautiful yet often uncertain conundrum that is our existence. That’s some heavy material for a 90+ degree Sunday afternoon, but the crowd never dwindled, and in fact picked up a few curious bystanders along the way.

They were entertained with three dance movements that, while connected in theme, varied in story line. The first two pitted issues of environmental beauty against the danger that inevitably lurks amongst that beauty, posing humans as both cautious hunters and as prey. The third and last dance work offered the audience a completely different — and more personal — tone to the theme of migration, injecting a sobering narrative recounting of a family’s decision to flee from Peru to the U.S.

David Popalisky thanks the crowd that gathered to follow the performance on campus.  Photo: Patrick Lydon

Mid-way through the wandering performance, the line “The earth turns, we are all passengers” was spoken repeatedly by the wanderer figure, performed by Sally Mitchell. From my view — atop a grassy hill on a scorching hot day, under a barely adequate sliver of shade from one of the newly planted trees at SCU — this line summed up the theme of the show well.

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