Chorus, dance company combine for mutually-inspired, collaborative performances

“Kua Rongo Mai Koe” is a song of welcome by Maori composer Ngapo Wehi. Translated, the opening lines say, “I have heard the voice of welcome greeting me, welcoming me as part of the wider world.”

Columbus Modern Dance Company and the Magpie Consort are widening their respective worlds through a collaborative concert titled “Play!” Choreography and choral singing are, individually, most often a primary storytelling mechanism, but sharing those duties — and the stage — can be a stretch for the dancers and singers, and, hopefully, for audiences at the two upcoming presentations of “Play!”

“I think a lot of the pieces we selected are more story-based than typically you would find in most modern dance work,” Modern Dance director Laura Puscas said. “Depending on the choreographer and the piece, we have some interpretations that are more literal and some that are more abstract.”

“The choir is working to convey the text while still being collaborative with the dancers in another way, where we set up this tapestry of sound that affects the dance. Choral music is often already a collaboration between the voices and accompaniment, and we've worked very hard to create this third partnership with the dancers,” said Magpie director Christopher Dent, who called “Play!” an “interaction between music, text and movement.”

For example, on the aforementioned “Kua Rongo Mai Koe,” choreographer Faith Chester opted for gestures that evoke welcoming, Puscas said. On the other hand, for David Cherwien's “To You Before the Close of Day,” guest choreographer Charlotte Ghigliazza “felt the sound of the choir reminded her of water, specifically people walking quickly in New York in the rain.” Ghigliazza balances the two approaches for “O Salutaris Hostia,” examining the ancient Latin (this version is by contemporary Latvian composer Eriks Esenvalds) and asking the dancers which words were meaningful to them, then creating movement inspired by those words, yet not a literal interpretation of the full text.

The Magpies will stretch their repertoire with a performance of contemporary composer Eric Whitacre's comparatively modern “Little Man in a Hurry,” Dent said. The full Modern Dance company will present structured improvisation to the music.

The concerts will close with Bob Chilcott's five-part “Aesop's Fables,” with choreography by Puscas.