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The academics of dance: students perform class projects

December 8, 2017

Ann Basu
STEP UP: Last week, Lucia Gagliardone ’20 performed her final class project, which she choreographed. She also designed the costume, lighting and sound for her performance.

The dance department’s annual December show allows students, both novice and advanced, to show off their skills in dance, choreography and staging. This year’s show, without the usual guest performances and more elaborate staging, put the spotlight on the department’s class projects.

In past years, dance classes performed in Pickard Theater, but this year the recital was held in a dance studio in Edwards Center for Art and Dance on Wednesday and Thursday nights.

Routines from “Modern 1: Repertory and Performance,” “Making Dances” and “Choreography for Dancers” classes appeared in the show, allowing the audience to interact with the performers as they move in different facings about the room.

“Audiences get to have a window into processes, practices and the minds of choreographers,” said Assistant Professor of Dance Aretha Aoki. “I think audiences will really feel a part of the experience. They’ll be asked to move around the space. The performers are going to be able to see them and the lights are such [a way] they’ll be able to make eye contact. It’ll be an enlivening experience.”

The four students in Aoki’s choreography class are performing solos based on their daily routines, including clips of “found” sound they have heard in their everyday lives.

“It’s easy to be grandiose in our vision,” said Aoki, “and to think we don’t have the material, [but in] this class we were looking for the habitual stuff, the stuff we take for granted and tried to find the choreographic possibilities there.”

Providing students with an academic approach to dance emphasizes the performing arts as a legitimate field of study, according to Aoki.

“For students [who] really do want to focus on [dance] they can dive into the disciplines rather than viewing it as an extracurricular add-on to their academic subjects,” said Aoki.

Ann Basu
Tyler Chonoles ’19 (left) and Destiny Kearney ’21 (right) also performed their final class project on Wednesday and Thursday, along with the other four members of “Modern I: Repertory and Performance.” Their performance was composed of both duets and group numbers, which showcased a variety of styles and tempos.

A performing arts major was added to Bowdoin’s curriculum this year, with concentrations in dance, theatre or an interdisciplinary approach. Lucia Gagliardone ’20, who performed on Wednesday and Thursday, is currently the only student pursuing the dance concentration.

“I always get a little nervous before I perform which is kind of good,” said Gagliardone.  “[The] adrenaline is terrifying, but also great. I’m nervous because I’ve never performed my own choreography and choreography that I’m this attached to. I’ve literally been working on this piece for four months. It’s definitely high stakes. I hope people like it.”

For Aoki, performing is a valuable experience for students in and of itself.

“I think the act of performance—of getting on stage, preparing and then realizing you can’t prepare anymore—that the moment has come and the lights are on and people are there and you’ve got what you got,” said Aoki. “There’s something really profound about that experience that I think it’s useful to anybody … There are fundamental skills there that even if you don’t have any plans of pursuing dance or theatre as your career you can find value there.”

Aoki believes Bowdoin’s dance classes reflect a central value of the College.

“The emphasis on the Common Good is really vital in a dance class where you are quite exposed, unlike your chemistry class or your math class where the learning process is very individual,” said Aoki. “In dance class you’re showing that, all of your vulnerabilities and mistakes and failures and in fact that’s an important part of class. So having a dynamic that’s actually really kind and supportive is so important and also being critical too is super important and I feel like our students strike that balance well.”

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