While on his way from New England to the Rocky Mountains, Peter DiMuro was thinking about journeys.
When do you go, and when do you stop?
Who and what has urged you forward or backward?
And who are today's pioneers?
DiMuro recently was commissioned to create a new ballet for Aaron Copland's "Rodeo," thus all the pondering over pioneers and journeys while on a trip west.
So when DiMuro arrived at Colorado Mesa University several weeks ago to teach and choreograph a piece as a guest artist for the dance department's annual Spring Into Dance concerts, he asked students the questions he had been pondering.
From those discussions came "Naive & Known Journeys II" featuring the music of American composer John Adams and expressing through dance the starts and stops, delights and discouragements found in the variety of journeys people take during their lives.
"My aesthetic is very humanistic," said DiMuro during an interview last week before a day packed with teaching and rehearsals. "I'm trying to illustrate the extraordinary in the everyday."
DiMuro, who hails from Boston, is the artistic director of Public Displays of Motion, a "company that develops and performs artistic works and cultivates dance/arts literacy advocacy and engagement," according to a news release from CMU. He also is the executive director of The Dance Complex in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
DiMuro is one of two guest artists for Spring Into Dance, which will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 21–22, and at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 22, in Robinson Theatre in CMU's Moss Performing Arts Center, 1231 N. 12th St.
The other guest artist is Courtney Jones, who teaches at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston. Jones also worked with dance students this semester and set a contemporary modern piece for the annual concerts.
This Spring Into Dance features dancers from the Grand Valley community alongside CMU dance students and the program is "highly technical," said Meredith Lyons, associate professor of dance at CMU.
It displays a variety of types of dance with new pieces choreographed by herself and several other faculty members, the guest artists and three students: Quiana McElroy, Katheryn Panega and Jenna Wadleigh.
While Jones' piece is "pretty stylistic" and fast with syncopation and rhythm, Lyons' is a pointe piece with simple ballet costumes and set to Copland's "Rodeo."
Ann J. Sanders, CMU dance professor emeritus, created a piece exploring the recent interest in adult coloring books and mandalas.
And Megan Glynn Zollinger, associate professor and director of CMU's dance program, set a highly technical jazz dance piece, Lyons said.
These Spring Into Dance concerts also will engage audiences in a different way by bringing pre-performances into the lobby.
The pre-performances, involving groupings of two or three dancers, are connected to DiMuro's "Naïve and Known Journeys II" and will include dialogue as well as movement.
Some of the dialogue comes from the discussions DiMuro and students had while developing his piece, he said.
"It's my way of adding some narrative to the experience," he said.
Those pre-performances also signal how the art must interact with our rapidly shifting culture, DiMuro said.
Many people don't leave home anymore for art or they watch their phones instead of attending to the stage, and so pop-up dances and flash mobs became popular, he said.
But those "intrinsically felt shallow," he said, like a "cheap trick" to get noticed.
More recently DiMuro has observed the development of performances that are "more nuanced" and that take what used to happen inside on the stage, outside to interact with people.
Having an artistic experience with other people is unique and powerful and can't be lost, he said.
When you're five feet or less away from a dance performance, it's demystifying and transparent, he said.
And if you stop to watch or take part, it could start you on a journey.