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Solo and ensemble performances in dance concert to showcase program’s breadth and depth

December 1, 2023

Shihab Moral
TWISTING AND TWIRLING: Dylan Richmond '24 in dress rehearsal. Richmond's performance features dynamic props and staging elements, including textiles and digital media.

Tonight and tomorrow night, the Department of Theater and Dance will put on the winter dance concert in Pickard Theater at 7:30 p.m. The concert will feature performances from the Advanced Repertory and Performance, Making Dances in the Digital Age, and Introduction to Hip-Hop courses, as well as two student solos.

Classes worked and prepared their dances for the concert throughout the entire semester. In addition to learning the choreography, rehearsals focused on timing, logistics and navigating space onstage.

“It’s a very intricate process and there’s a lot of layers,” Fernanda Rodas ‘27, a student in Advanced Repertory and Performance, said. “Because we’ve been working on it for so long, we’re at that final stage where it’s just making sure that we know what we’re doing.”

Senior Lecturer in Dance Performance Gwyneth Jones noted that the preparation process is made more difficult by the fact that classes only meet twice per week.

“There just never seems to be enough time, and that’s the nature of trying to make performance happen,” Jones said. “In dance, it’s easier if you can see people often. We don’t have that luxury.”

For dance major Dylan Richmond ‘24, who is performing as part of his honors project, the work began almost three years ago. His performance, based on writer Ntozake Shange’s choreopoem, focuses on expressing the experiences of Black women who are not typically represented in theater and art. Richmond explained how working with this topic for several years makes this performance intensely personal.

“Part of the choreopoem is that it’s about personal experience,” Richmond said. “A lot of the movement and writing I’m doing for this have been derived from my personal experience has made it a much more all-consuming experience.”

With his choreography, Richmond experiments with the audience-performer relationship and uses digital projections to create a duet, through which he explores the racialization and surveillance of Black bodies. Out of that theme, he also hopes to express a pursuit of joy.

“I’m playing a lot with light and color as general concepts and themes,” Richmond said. “And then [I’m] co-opting them to my own, experimenting with how to pursue joy and what joy looks like in different spaces.”

Additionally, Mia Vinding ‘24 is performing “Momentum,” a solo piece she choreographed as a personal project. Vinding hopes to explore where momentum in performances comes from, how it is carried through the body and whether it differs between group performances and solos. She also experiments with movement and music throughout the piece.

“I have a good 30-ish seconds that there’s no musical soundtrack, which is scary, but really fun to play with where the impetus for dance comes from,” Vinding said. “For me, it doesn’t come from the music.”

Theater and Dance Costume Shop Manager Lily Prentice collaborated with faculty choreographers to design costumes for the performance and worked with Richmond and Vinding for their solos. She described how meaningful it was to develop a variety of looks for the performances and additionally expressed how proud she is of all the student employees in the costume shop.

“It’s always a joy to be able to see the classes grow throughout the semester and such a gift to see the culmination of that growth as they perform,” Prentice said.

For the dance program, the winter concert is an opportunity for students from a variety of dance backgrounds and experience levels to take the stage, from students who have never danced before to those who have been dancing their whole lives.

“I think that one of our goals is to make sure that any student who wants to dance can and feels welcome in the studio,” Jones said. “I think you very much see that on stage.”

Caroline Berney ’26, who took dance for the first time this semester, is performing for her Introduction to Hip-Hop class. She said she feels both nervous and excited, and says that the close-knit community among the students in the class makes her first performance less daunting.

“I think [dance] really is a great way to build community because you have to be so vulnerable,” Berney said. “It just really drops down all the barriers you normally have.”

Likewise, for Rodas, a prospective dance major, this semester has meant the opportunity to continue dancing, something she has done for years, in a welcoming and supportive community.

“Everyone is included, and all of their work is very valued, which I appreciate,” she said.

Looking ahead to the concert, Jones took time to reflect on the hard work of performers, faculty, and tech alike that makes the event possible.

“It’s a fabulous group of students and it takes everybody to come together to make it happen, since there are five dances in the concert,” Jones said. “The glue is the incredible tech, the support that we have.”


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