When you think of the waltz, you probably imagine women in flowing gowns and men in ruffled shirts dancing to the music of Johann Strauss. The dancers, of course, know the etiquette of the ballroom and strictly adhere to it.
But Marianne Kubik, Kansas University assistant theater professor, sees the waltz in a different light. Her new theater piece, "The Waltz Project," shows how the dance form reflects societal rules regarding men and women and their partnering.
"I want to break those rules because they have a lot to do with gender roles and relationships," she said. "We need to break the rules of yesterday."
Through the telling of humorous, serious and controversial stories, the audience is introduced to pairs of people who are quite different from each other but are moving in sync and seeking both intimacy and safety.
The project began about three years ago as part of Kubik's academic research at Boston University, where she taught and was finishing up her master's degree. While teaching ballroom dancing to young professionals and acting students, she became fascinated with "the way of the dance," or the dramatic style to each ballroom dance. She was drawn to the waltz because of its three-quarter time, romantic inspiration and familiarity among audiences.
When Kubik joined the KU faculty in the fall of 1999, she continued her research and was awarded a $10,000 KU New Faculty Research Program grant, which was matched by Hutchinson's Historic Fox Theater.
Last spring she and a company of KU theater students presented a workshop production of "The Waltz Project," and this spring the show premiered at the Fox Theatre in Hutchinson. The KU presentation marks the first time "The Waltz Project" has been mounted as a full-scale, 90-minute production with a live band, set and costumes.
The KU show has a cast of three guest artists David Goodwin, Shane Scheel and Kirsten Paludan; two faculty artists KU theater professor John Staniunas and Kubik; and several KU theater students.
Above all, Kubik said, "The Waltz Project" is an experiment in the fusion of artistic genres and educational fields such as history, math and psychology.
"I'm trying to blend different kinds of (artistic media) theater, dance, music, film, painting, spoken or written word," she said. "The goal is to be educational and entertaining."