This is an archived article.

February 25, 2010

Dance Majors Concert: Students put their hearts and souls into the five-month process of creating a program

For five months, students have been organizing every aspect of the upcoming Dance Majors Concert. The performances, March 4-7, showcase the original work of eight choreographers and 26 dancers, who are all undergraduates.


Each dance, conceived by a student, has its own personality.


“The piece that I created,” said student choreographer Samantha Crilly, “is called ’47 Reasons.’ I wanted to explore why people do the things that they do.”


Crilly’s piece combines technology and dance. While one dancer performs live on the stage of Meany Studio Theater, a film projection runs in the background. For the projection, Crilly filmed dancers in the community answering the question of why they dance.


“It’s a pretty general premise [why dancers choose to spend so many years dancing], but it ended up being a much more difficult task than I anticipated. It took a long session of soul searching before they were able to make an attempt at putting into words why they make the choices that they make every day. … Some give reasons and some aren’t able to… sometimes there are no words.”


Another one of the dances, choreographed by senior David Lorence Schleiffers, sets out to create a piece that “in some way symbolizes unity and care for one another, all through a simple structure.”


Schleiffers set strict choreographic restrictions.


“For example,” he said, “I only allow the dancers to move forward and backward from their starting position. The piece uses primarily unison phrase work between the eight dancers. All of them have an equal part throughout the dance, so there are no ‘solo’ characters.”


He said that he wanted his dancers to be “real people,” so the costumes are everyday clothes that fit into a color palette that reflects the mood.


An important aspect of the Dance Majors Concert is that it is largely in the hands of students. The process is meant to teach dance majors how concerts are produced.


“Each student chorographer has an assignment that contributes to the concert,” said Jennifer Salk, artistic director, “including writing press releases, poster design, producing programs, running auditions, costuming, etc.”


Schleiffers said, “Organizing rehearsals with eight full-time students is a hard task. We’ve resorted to rehearsing Fridays from 7-9 p.m. because of conflicting schedules. You can tell that the dancers are devoted to the project because they are willing to give up their Friday nights to create a dance.”


Crilly said that scheduling probably wasn’t as difficult for her piece because she has one dancer, but she found the film to be a huge undertaking.


“I was the camera crew, the director, the editor, and I did the sound and lighting,” she said. “I worked for months—it was an enormous project. I sat in the art studio going through the film–frame by frame to get everything just right. I’m very pleased with the results and hope that the audience feels the emotion that I put into it.”


She also worked closely with her dancer on taking ownership of the movement.


“Annie Morro [the dancer] wanted to make sure that she was doing everything the way that I wanted, but what I wanted was for her to dance the piece from the inside out–with her own personality and emotion, not mine.


“So I asked her what her favorite song was,” Crilly continued, “and she said Elton John’s ‘Tiny Dancer.’ I put the song on, and had her dance the whole piece with her own interpretation of the movement. She lit up and embodied the piece more than I had ever seen. It was a huge moment of growth for her, and it was so beautiful to witness.”


Other choreographers whose work is seen in the concert are Tameka Lampkin, Rashelle McKee, Kate Mosbarger, Alisa Popova, Alison Rosenstock and Joseph Schanbeck.


Tickets for the performances are available at the UW Arts Ticket Office and online here. General admission is $14, $12 for UW faculty/staff and $10 for students. The concert runs March 4-6 at 7:30 p.m. and March 7 at 2 p.m. All performances are at the Meany Studio Theater.


“Every choreographer has put their hearts and souls into what they created,” said Crilly. “I know all of them well, and we have all been working with each other, giving and getting feedback. Each piece is as unique as we are. It’s really an honor to present my work to the community, and I hope that the audience enjoys it!”