After a semester of crafting and creating their own routine, 11 dance majors were able to watch their hard work come to life at the Choreography Showcase on Friday, Dec. 9.
As a requirement for the theatre and dance course Research in Choreography, instructed by Keene State College contract lecturer Cynthia McLaughlin, each student had to recruit dancers, schedule practice times and prepare their own personal dance routine.
Each choreographed routine maintained it’s own unique style, with every performance showcasing different costumes, lighting and music, while conveying different stories, messages and inspirations.
Before the event, each student choreographer worked with their dancers all semester long to tinker each step and movement until they achieved the creation they had envisioned from the beginning of the course.
The course also included periods where the students spent time critiquing each piece and offering feedback on how they could improve their choreography.
McLaughlin explained the importance of this time the choreographers spent together before the performance.
“It’s crucial on many levels because the work transforms and develops over time, so an artist could work for two years on a piece of choreography,” McLaughlin said.
“They happen to get a semester’s time that they could’ve used more of if they could have, and you wouldn’t recognize the work from how it began at the beginning of the semester. Not only does it take a lot of back and forth of getting comments from your peers and from me as the professor just for creating the movement vocabulary, but then the crafting of it is this whole other layer. Just the images where they grow with their ideas, it just needs that community of collaborators so we became sort of a community of artists that, because we were with each other through the whole process, we knew what kinds of questions to ask each other.”
The choreographers each had their own unique experience with the course and this was especially true for Coordinator of Energy and Administrative Services at KSC Diana Duffy. Not only is Duffy a KSC faculty member, but at 53-years-old, she was also a member of the class.
Duffy said, “As an employee here, I take advantage of classes. It’s a benefit or perk that we have here and I always take dance class at Keene State because I never got to at my college.”
Duffy added that she has taken around six dance classes here at KSC, and among the dance classes she has taken, she said this one was the hardest one she has participated in.
“I had to create and craft a piece out of thin air and I have no formal dance training,” Duffy said.
When asked what her inspiration was for her routine, Duffy said in order to find her inspiration, she focused on a certain principle that they learned about in class known as a point of departure.
Duffy said, “Our professor asked us to have a point of departure. For me, it was about…even in the hardest days that we have, we can gain strength and solidarity when we’re just in it with other people. So my piece was trying to convey that every day drudgery of work and no matter how hard it is, it can be a glorious moment.”
Fellow student of the class Emily Posner said her inspiration was her hip hop background and that her choreographed piece was named “Fuse” because she wanted to fuse hip hop with the modern dance techniques they had learned. After seeing her routine executed on the dance floor, Posner said it went “beautifully” and she enjoyed seeing each choreographers intended story unfold under the bright lights.
“It was amazing,” Posner said. “Everyone has a very unique style and knowing the story behind each piece, it was so emotional. It was great to see everything come to life.”
Posner also mentioned that she benefitted from accepting feedback from the class when it came time for her to choose what music she wanted for her piece.
Posner said, “I started off with one song I was sure of having and everyone said I need to change the music…once I picked this song (“Celloopa” by The Piano Guys) I think it changed everything.”
The dancers who performed Posner’s routine were sophomores Jordan Pierce and Kelsey Walsh, who both participated in multiple routines.
After the show, Pierce, a criminal justice and psychology double major, said although challenging, the memorizing of multiple routines came down to muscle memory for her.
“It kind of just sticks with you and I’ve been doing it for such long time,” Pierce said. “A huge part of my life is dancing, so I think just practice and trying to keep myself relaxed and focused.”
Pierce continued, “I’ve been dancing ever since I was three so it’s been a really big part of my life, and I’m also on the dance team at Keene so a lot of them are a part of choreography so I decided to give it a shot.”
This year, McLaughlin, as the artistic director of the event, made an adjustment to the showcase to not only challenge the choreographers creativity, but to give them a taste of the dance world outside of KSC.
McLaughlin said,“This showcase has always taken place up on the stage and I made the choice to bring it down here (to the floor) because many venues out in the professional world are this type of venue where you have more seating in the round or what we would call three quarters in the round. So some of them (the students) weren’t used to thinking about their audience being all around them, so that was often a way that we would push the students to sit in different places, think about your audience and it can’t just be flat to the front. That was definitely something we made sure to work on.”
After the show, Duffy shared an inspiring sentiment relating to her relationship with the students in the course and her journey to the showcase.
“Every one of those students in my mind are unbelievably talented, unbelievably creative and I learned as much from them as I did from the teacher,” Duffy said.
“There were many times I wanted to get out of it or I wanted to take the easy road, or I wanted to just watch. I knew this course would be hard and I said ‘I’m going to audit this one,’ and every time the students said, ‘No Diana, you’re not getting off the hook. It’s just as hard for us you have no idea.’ So they bolstered me in ways I could never have anticipated and I’m so grateful.”
The 11 choreographers in the showcase were Ally Laperriere, Amanda L. Untracht, Makayla Marion Ferrick, Miranda Ronan, Amanda Mulhall, Emily Posner, Brittany Powers, Jacqueline Livingston and Bethany Peterson.
The next theatre and dance event will be the Greek Project and will take place March 5 at 7:30 p.m. in the Mabel Brown Room.
Nick Tocco can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org