Arts & Culture

Choreographers take center stage at Fall Dance Concert

Event brings campus dance groups together, invites audience members to assess choreography

Staff Writer
Monday, November 21, 2016

The annual Fall Dance Concert, which took place between Nov. 17 and Nov. 20 in the Ashamu Dance Studio, brought a range of campus dance groups together for multiple days of student-choreographed performances. The concert was co-produced by artist-in-residence and Senior Lecturer in Theatre Arts and Performance Studies Julie Adams Strandberg, Senior Lecturer in TAPS Michelle Bach-Coulibaly and Lecturer in TAPS Sydney Skybetter.

The event’s organizers aimed to spotlight its choreographers, handing audience members response forms on which they could evaluate the choreography of each performance. “I think this is the first year that we really stressed (the choreography), and the performance quality showed that there was that outside eye,” Strandberg said.

Choosing which choreographers get featured in the show was a selective process. First, there was a meeting of interested choreographers, then a preview of the dances, after which feedback was sent to the dancers. Two and a half weeks later, there was a final preview to choose which pieces would be part of the concert. “About a third of the pieces don’t get chosen,” Strandberg said.

Choreographed by Stanley Munoz ’17,  “Fade”opened the show, reflecting on how individuals maintain social order and comfort in their interactions. “In ‘Fade,’ I struggle to break from subconscious group behavior and decision-making, a natural social phenomenon causing our character to fade with the groups we surround ourselves with,” Munoz wrote in the playbill.

In “Lmn/opqr/s,” choreographed by Sarah Hsu ’17 and created and performed by Leslie McCauley ’18, Monica Caparas ’17 and Nomvula Mbambo ’17.5, the audience members were invited to join the dancers to take part in “the process of healing.” The dance was originally inspired by the works of sociologists W.E.B. Du Bois and Erving Goffman and is “grounded in their thoughts on identity itself,” Hsu said.

The show closed with “Pure Imagination,” choreographed by Megan Gessner ’20, which focused on the theme of individuality. “My piece was about breaking away from going day to day and not being present and being authentic about who we are,” Gessner said. Gessner became inspired for her piece through a combination of life experience and the song, “Pure Imagination.”

“I have always tried to embrace being myself and being different from other people,” Gessner said. “But recently I’ve felt … inauthentic in the way I present myself. My dance comes from this experience.”

Gessner, who has been dancing for 15 years and only started choreographing recently, debuted her first group choreography at the concert. She said that as a choreographer she would regularly check in with her dancers for any feedback on her piece. “Every time before they went on stage, I would talk to them and (say) something a little different,” Gessner said. “Sometimes there was a word that I said that they held onto.”

Each dance told its own story, a phenomenon that the performance space helped to construct, Strandberg said.

“This concert had a more intimate setting,” Strandberg said. “There was a nice balance between a big group and smaller pieces where you can sense the narrative.”

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