North Texas Daily

Student choreographers to showcase own works

Student choreographers to showcase own works

Student choreographers to showcase own works
November 19
23:16 2014

Samantha McDonald / Senior Staff Writer

Graduates part with valedictions and historical figures close with their famous last words. Dancers, on the other hand, celebrate their final performance, and at UNT this weekend, that final performance will be known as the New Choreographers Concert.

Entitled “Agony, Ecstasy, and Floating Tanks,” the concert will feature 16 advanced choreography students showcasing 16 pieces that explore the concepts of motion, fantasy and emotion. Fifty dance students in nearly 100 roles are set to perform in the concert, which requires nine costume designers and 11 lighting designers, all UNT students.

Artistic director Shelley Cushman said because of the sheer number of participants this year, the program was divided into two separate concerts, both with two showings each. The performances are Nov. 21 at 8 p.m., Nov. 22 at 2 and 8 p.m. and Nov. 23 at 2 p.m.

“These concerts have something for everybody [and are] the culminating efforts of the student’s academic career,” Cushman said. “It is their opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned at UNT.”

The major

Because they pirouette for a grade and replace projects with performances, dance majors are often the recipients of prejudice among many majors, senior choreographer Davis Stumberg said. But what other students don’t know is what’s required of a dance student: long hours, exhaustive rehearsals and informal showings that gauge his or her progress at certain points within the semester.

On top of their performances, choreographers submit a binder book, a record of the improvements they made throughout the semester. A detailed description of the piece, ethical issues and costume plans are among the requirements each student must complete in order to pass the course.

“They shape not only your education, but also you as an individual,” Stumberg said. “They really give you a platform to go out, make art, be educated and focus on professionalism.”

As part of their performance theory class, students are required to share personal stories about themselves to strengthen the dancers’ relationships with one another. Senior choreographer Kristianna Hogan said this experience allowed the group to form a bond not felt between students in other majors.

“It’s really hard not to love the people you dance with, because it’s such an intimate environment,” Hogan said. “Because we get to dance with people we know genuinely care about us, it makes everything that much better.”

The rehearsal

Eat, sleep, dance, repeat.

That is the mantra of the dance seniors, who spend their weekdays at the studio from 7 a.m.-9 p.m. As they prepare for the final performance, the schedule only gets more hectic.

For their senior capstone project, students are presented with three options: choreography, performance or an individual research project. Choreographers begin their semester with auditions, selecting dancers they wish to include in their pieces.

Once the dancers are grouped under their respective choreographers, the hard part comes: practice, practice and more practice. The intensity with which they prepare for the concert is the main factor behind their development as dancers, senior choreographer Reyna Mondragon said.

“Just from there to now, you get to see the growth we’ve gone through, and it’s just marvelous,” she said. “Everybody grows in such a short amount of time.”

Dance senior Annalise Boydston, who choreographed the piece “F— Everything and Run,” said constantly rehearsing the same phrases over and over allows her to fall in and out of love with her piece. This emotional connection is what makes her both nervous and excited to see her dancers perform on stage.

“As a choreographer, you give these dancers the piece of your soul, and at a certain point, you have to let go because it becomes theirs,” Boydston said. “That’s when you have to just sit back, watch it be performed and let the dancers totally transform what you gave them.”

The performance

At the end of the semester, the advanced choreography students gather at the RTFP building in preparation for the concert, patiently awaiting the moment they are introduced on stage.

One of those students is choreographer and dance senior Tony Picciolo, whose piece, “Borealis,” was named after the Aurora Borealis, commonly known as the Northern Lights. Inspired by the history of splendor and fear that surrounded the lights’ first appearance in the sky, the piece was a product of Picciolo’s research into the scientific, folkloric and religious perspectives held by different people from cultures across the world.

“All of the dancers are the northern lights as a collective, but individually in different sections of the dance, they represent a different corner of the earth and how they viewed it,” Picciolo said. “It was really just a take on how beauty is such a universal concept, but we all have our own versions of it.”

Although the three showings leading up to the concert already demonstrated how much the dancers have evolved since the start of the semester, Picciolo said none of their previous performances compare to the final concert.

“Even though it’s better in the showings, it can never look as good as it does on stage,” Picciolo said. “There’s just an energy that lives on the stage, and there’s no way to access it anywhere else.”

Featured Image: Dancers practice routines for the New Choreographers Concert in the DATH building on Thursday. The concert will be held in the RTFP Building Nov. 21 through 23. Photo by Devin Dakota – Staff Photographer

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