Abbie Brown’s “Only You, Elvis and Balls: A Choreographic Exploration of Awkwardness” was performed in the Mabel Brown Room this past Saturday, April 9, as part of the Academic Excellence Conference held at Keene State College. The Academic Excellence Conference is meant to celebrate students, faculty and members of the KSC community in order to celebrate academic research.

Senior dance major Brown choreographed the dance through the class Research in Choreography, which she said is a class meant to evolve an idea into a theme and a then the theme into a dance.

“I’ve been dancing since I was six years old in a studio setting, and, when I came here, I dealt more with the modern aspect and the research and choreography aspect,” Brown said.

Contributed photo Illustration by William Wrobel

Contributed photo Illustration by William Wrobel

Brown said she worked with five dances, rehearsing two times a week for a total of 63 hours of rehearsal time. Working with the human emotion of awkwardness, she said she focused on being caught in an awkward situation and how to react to it.

As for why she chose to explore awkwardness, Brown said, “I remember looking back at my notes when I was prepping for this conference, and one of the first things that I wrote down in my notebook was just an idea of dealing with human awkwardness.”

Brown continued, “I think of myself as kind of an awkward person, so drawing on personal experiences and experiences of others was really interesting to me. And also I wanted to do something with a sense of humor, because i think we can be so awkward and uncomfortable in the moment, but then looking back on it, there’s this sense of human. I think the relatability between one another it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh that happened to me too!’”

Brown said she themed the performace around the concept of a middle school dance, and that she had her dancers work with uncomfortable tics, such as dealing with sweaty palms and playing with their hair and nails. She showed the dancers visuals of what she perceived to be awkward situations, and had them go from there. The intent was to have not just one person on stage, but five individuals dancing with each other and expressing themselves.

Contributed photo Illustration by William Wrobel

Contributed photo Illustration by William Wrobel

English Professor Kirsti Sandy commented on the performance. She said, “They did such a good job with their expressions and everything about the performance brought that up, and there were these moments when they broke out of it and went back into it. That says to me that, no one’s awkward all the time, so I loved that this captured that sudden self consciousness after they forgot themselves. You don’t think of awkwardness having any qualities that are pretty, we think of it as sort of ugly, but they brought out the beauty in it.”

Brown discussed what it meant to her to present the arts at a conference that primarily focuses on sciences.

“William Say, my professor, asked me if I’d be interested in doing the Academic Excellence Conference. He tries to get one or two dance major a year to present their work, and it’s really great because you hear of the science center doing all this research, so I think it’s nice to show that there is all of this research that goes into an art as well,” Brown said.

First-year Alexandra Tolan elaborated on this topic.

“It was important to celebrate differences in an Academic Excellence Conference because one of the most appealing aspects of a liberal arts college is the encouragement for self-expression and creativity. Celebrating “awkwardness” and differences unites us in a way,” Tolan said.

After graduating, Brown said she plans on moving to New York City, where she hopes to continue her dreams of dance and choreography.

Isabel Tisdale can be contacted at

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