Behind the scenes of a dance production
The art of dance is not just about moving across a stage or wearing pretty leotards and tights; it is a way for dancers to tell a story without having to say a word.
The movements of the dancers show not only their physical strength and technical ability, but also a strong variety of emotions.
Karen Stokes, head of the Dance Division at the School of Theatre and Dance, said, “At the University level, I look for dancers who are fully engaged in the rehearsal process, who have a sense of humor, demonstrate a strong work ethic and usually, I try to pick dancers I have not worked with before.”
Teresa Chapman, director of the pre-professional group Dance Ensemble, seeks similar qualities.
“I look for a dancer that has potential, passion, commitment, strong work ethic, dedication, performance ability and a higher level of technical ability,” Chapman said.
Watching a dance performance can be an exhilarating experience. The final piece is rewarding for the dancers and choreographers who have been rehearsing and straining their bodies for numerous hours and countless days in the studio.
“Most importantly, potential Ensemble members should possess the ability to work as a team and be a leader in the dance program,” Chapman said.
For the fall, students are encouraged to create their choreography and pick their cast for the student-choreographed works. These works are given three showings for faculty to give feedback and constructive criticism. On the third showing, the faculty selects the works that will be shown in the emerging choreographers showcase.
Bryan Peck, a senior dance major, talked about how a rehearsal works for the Ensemble Dance Works.
“Learning and setting new choreography on the dancers while nailing down spacing, formations and patterns. Right before show, we have to fit costumes. Then you have your lighting and spacing rehearsal on stage,” Peck said.
The spring dance concert is cast by Chapman in coordination with the choreographers. Students who wish to be part of the Dance Ensemble audition during the spring semester for the following season. Some of the decisions are based on the dancers the choreographer is interested in working with, but under equal consideration is the number of dances each dancer is cast in and the overall composition of the show itself.
Dancers rehearse Monday through Friday and have technique classes and times where their main goal is to rehearse for the performance they are working on.
Each choreographer has a different teaching style, so each rehearsal is different.
Katey Tidwell, a senior dance major, weighs in on what a typical rehearsal is like.
“First, we usually go over what we have previously learned and clarify questionable areas. Then the choreographer will begin teaching new material. Sometimes their ideas work and sometimes they don’t,” Tidwell said.
“Not everything works out how you imagine it will in your head. Some choreographers will ask for your input. They might ask you to make up a phrase yourself to contribute or just make variations to movement phrases they have already taught you. It all depends on the choreographer and how they put together their own dances,” she said.
Jerrica Mark, a dance and mathematics senior, loves expressing herself in dance.
“My favorite thing about dance is that I can express what I want to say through movement,” Mark said.
“It drives me crazy — those moments that you can’t find the right words or the right way to say something. I find that movement gives me a greater range of vocabulary and possibilities to give a voice to my thoughts and feelings that I could not find with words.”
The Dance Ensemble Works concert will take place at 7:30 p.m. April 5 and 6 and 1:30 p.m. April 7 at the Lyndall Finley Wortham Theatre.