Keene State’s annual Evening of Dance performance returned to the stage on May 6 to 8, 2021.
Titled “Re[member]: An Evening of Dance,” this year’s performance centered around the idea of remembering and dismembering. All of the pieces were tied to this central theme, but stage manager Jayson Cassetta said they are open to interpretation.
“They’re very interesting concepts to read into and ask the choreographers about,” Cassetta said. “And there’s a connection throughout [Evening of Dance] that’s really cool.”
Artistic director Cynthia McLaughlin said the theme arose from a conversation between herself and a colleague. “She said that she would rather be a mind and no body and I said if I had to choose, I would be a body and no mind,”
McLaughlin said. “That sparked something in me about the ways we bifurcate our ideas around self. As we moved into the age of COVID, I realized that a theme of remember [and] dismember felt entirely relevant.”
McLaughlin explored these concepts in her piece “Waiting in Pieces.” The piece showed a gradual progression in body movement, moving from the arms, legs and lower body, hands and eventually full-body movement. Television screens were a core visual element of the piece, which McLaughlin said grew into a research question.
“As the work grew, I began to question the ways that our screens are becoming an extension of our mind,” McLaughlin said. “Is that evolution something benevolent or something to fear?”
In addition to original work by KSC dance faculty, Evening of Dance featured pieces choreographed by KSC dance students. Senior Samantha Witham examined inner and outer connections in her piece “Jellyfish Moonwalk.” Witham said there was a specific image that served as her jumping-off point for the piece.
“I envisioned a dancer standing on stage being obscured by a sheet,” Witham said. “From there, I started playing with concepts [and] questions that I was curious about, like how the dancers moved in space and how I could connect them without any physical connections.
“Zugzwang,” choreographed by senior Lindsay Gibbons, explores the decision-making process in no-win situations. “My initial research questioned centered around the idea of how individuals make decisions in no-win situations where any choice a person makes will undoubtedly cause someone harm,” Gibbons said.
Gibbons added, “For this piece, I started creating with my initial research question and creating choreography. I then started noticing patterns that were popping up, like clear lines and strong movements and developed them.”
These lines and shapes were reflected in the lighting design for the piece, in which boxes were projected onto the stage.
Gibbons also reflected on the experience of getting to choreograph her own piece. “I feel so lucky to get to share my work in this format and work so closely with the lighting, set and costume designers,” Gibbons said. “They all really made my vision come to life and I couldn’t be happier with the finished product.”
Witham shared similar sentiments, “I love being able to see all the finished work that the choreographers and dancers put an entire semester of work into,” Witham said. “It is so satisfying to see a complete show after so much time and effort has gone into the making of it.”
As stage manager, Cassetta got to witness this evolution of the production from off the stage. Cassetta discussed the process from initial rehearsals to the addition of costumes, lighting and other technical elements. “It’s really cool seeing a theme throughout a lot of these dances and how the completed theme works on stage,” Cassetta said. “Because, at first, you just kind of see movement and adding costumes and lighting completes the whole picture.”
Despite recent restrictions for on-campus gatherings set by the college on May 6, the performance was still able to go on with an in-person audience. Every dancer was wearing a face mask at all times and social distancing measures were accounted for in the choreography.
“We had to choreograph with six feet of distance between the dancers,” McLaughlin said. “This is a huge hurdle in an art form that crafts through contact and proximity.”
Cassetta added, “It has to be very spread out. There’s a lot of circles and diagonals and lines and you can’t have everyone on top of each other. And if they are close, they have to only be for like a little bit.”
Gibbons said that the social distancing rules did not have an impact on the dancers being able to bond. “There’s a very strong sense of connection between each and every cast, even with the COVID restrictions, so the community we create is really special to me,” Gibbons said.
“Re[member]: An Evening of Dance” was the final main stage production of the 2020-21 season for Keene State’s theater and dance department.
Caitlin Howard can be contacted at: