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Night Hawk brings Edward Hopper to life with a performance that combines dance, music and visual arts – The Bowdoin Orient

Alex Speer
HOPPER: Juliana Vandermark ’24 and Dylan Richmond ’24 perform with Night Hawk in the BCMA Rotunda.

Last Friday there was music played, dancing and art on display – all under the domed ceiling of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art (BCMA) Rotunda. Student band Night Hawk performed six original songs inspired by the paintings of Edward Hopper in matinee and evening performances, with visual interpretation by dancers Juliana Vandermark ’24 and Dylan Richmond ’24.

The ensemble—led by Colter Adams ’24 and Peyton Semjen ’24 and joined by Layla Rafimayeri ’24, Tara O’Malley ’24, and Courtney Burnett ’26—played across the room, facing the audience, which was in chairs arranged in a semicircle. . As the music echoed through the airy room, Vandermark and Richmond filled the circular space between them.

Adams and Semjen, whose band name is taken from the Hopper painting “Nighthawks,” describe some of their songs, such as “Soir Bleu” and “Dust” as “synesthetic pastiches” of the paintings. Others, such as ‘9am’, reflect the aesthetic of the artist’s work. They chose to incorporate dance into the performance, titled ‘Edward Hopper Recomposed’, to bring both the songs and the paintings to life.

“I think the dancing enhances the music because there are so many lyrics in our songs that are physical and connected to specific images in Hopper’s paintings,” Adams said. “Many characters in the paintings are frozen in these incredibly expressive poses, and as the dancers adjust those poses as just one of hundreds of movements, you feel as if you are watching the paintings come to life, just as you are.” We look at the other side of the painting.”

Art professor emeritus Mark Wethli wrote in an email to the Orient that he was impressed by the way “Edward Hopper Recomposed” captured the emotional tone of the artist’s work.

“As a painter who has admired the work of Edward Hopper for as long as I can remember, I was impressed both by their tribute to his work and by how aptly their music captured the beautiful sense of longing and melancholy that underlies his sun-drenched landscapes and interiors. Wethli said.

The performers also highlighted how the space of the Rotunda and its unique acoustics also became an integral part of the show.

“It worked really well because we were able to project the natural reverb in the room and use it to perform the songs,” Adams said. “The museum space was not only the perfect vehicle for our performance, but also the only vehicle for this performance, because we were so careful to curate every movement, every step and every note of how it would sound in the space. .”

Similar to the band’s adjustment to the acoustics, Richmond described how his and Vandermark’s dance responded to the space.

“Every time we entered the (Rotunda), we realized that our bodies naturally tended to circle around each other… or use gestures that went upward. That ended up being cool too, because I noticed during the choreography during the performance that every time I looked up or gestured up, the audience looked up,” Richmond said.

BCMA co-director Frank Goodyear made the Rotunda available for “Edward Hopper Recomposed.” The space was recently home to an exhibition that closed earlier this month featuring an untitled work by American artist Nick van Woert. Arranging rehearsals in a public and work space like the museum can be a challenge, but Goodyear ensured that the artists would have space to rehearse and that the art on display would remain safe.

Adams highlighted Goodyear’s help and enthusiasm as a vital part of the project, and Rafimayeri also expressed her gratitude.

“The museum staff was very nice, helpful and accommodating to us. They took us all the way down (to the Rotunda).… (Goodyear) was there for every rehearsal,” she said.

Hopper’s work is also present in the museum’s collection. The BCMA contains both a print by the artist and a self-portrait that Hopper sketched when he was 21. Large prints of the paintings that inspired the songs were placed on an easel by Vandermark during the show. All elements of the performance came together in what was an immersive and engaging experience for Goodyear.

“I sat there with the program open, reading the lyrics, looking at (Richmond) and (Vandermark) and the band, and thinking, this is so remarkable to see: different forms of creative expression coming together to create something bigger is whatever. of the individual parts,” says Goodyear. “And while we’ve done this kind of thing before, this was certainly the most complex feat we’ve done in the recent past. It was so beautiful and it was so well attended.”

Alondra Romero ’24 shared Goodyear’s sentiments.

“The band’s artistic representations, Dylan and Juliana’s dance, and Edward Hopper’s paintings worked seamlessly together to create an all-encompassing experience for the audience,” she wrote in an email to the Orient. “The performance revealed the power and beauty that comes from witnessing art forms in relationship to each other.”

Peyton Semjen ’24 and Juliana Vandermark ’24 are members of The Bowdoin Orient.