Every spring, OSU's highly acclaimed Department of Dance stretches its legs off-Campus in the Dance Downtown showcase. In keeping with the title of this year's program, Face Time, choreographers have offered local audiences a variety of free ways to get to know pieces and dancers before the show officially kicks off tonight.

Every spring, OSU's highly acclaimed Department of Dance stretches its legs off-Campus in the Dance Downtown showcase. In keeping with the title of this year's program, Face Time, choreographers have offered local audiences a variety of free ways to get to know pieces and dancers before the show officially kicks off tonight.

Rehearsals scheduled during the month of April at Sullivant Hall were open to the general public, and videos were created for OSU Dance's website with each of the four participating choreographers. For dance lovers who work Downtown, "brown bag" sneak previews were offered during lunch hour April 22 and 29 at OSU Urban Arts Space.

The space's concrete floor proved to be a bit of a challenge for dancers, but the Department of Art's recently installed 2009 MFA exhibition provided a thoughtful backdrop for their movements, especially a sculptural wall installation that fixed at least a dozen more eyes on the performances.

Melanie Bales was the first of three OSU faculty members to present a sense of what to expect. Her work, "Ivory Dances," recontextualizes the classical, non-narrative form of ballet blanc for contemporary dance.

"I really started it as a response to the music," she explained, then illustrated by having her dancers perform the same passage twice, first without music. The effect was best evoked by a male dancer: "Dance without music is like flat soda. I can still taste it but it's not fizzy."

There was fizz aplenty in a sampling of Susan Hadley's "Blue Grass." Set to the fiddling of Mark O'Connor, the work was originally commissioned over a decade ago by Hubbard Street Dance in Chicago and features "a tidy version of gender subversion," in Hadley's words.

In the first passage, four female dancers embark on a friendly, energetic display of solos and one-upwomanship. The second presents male dancers in a more somber display of critical support.

Victoria Uris previewed a few of the many moods in "Alarums and Excursions," a progression of 13 short sections danced to music by Jose Evangelista. To keep things interesting for all, Uris stressed collaboration, an organic exchange with dancers that helped create a flowing rhythm.

Dancers also helped shape the final work by the fourth choreographer, Taiwanese visiting artist Ming-Shen Ku, as participating MFA candidate Kathryn Hollis explained. The movement progression, which will be projected on stage by media artist Yau Chen as it's danced, was created in part through Ku passing to dancers words like " flip," "Ha!" and "shimmying" on slips of paper.

For a video preview of "Dance Downtown 2009," click to ColumbusAlive.com.