The Department of Performing Arts’ Dance Program presented its Final Choreography Salon 6 p.m. Dec. 1 in Studio A in the Center for the Arts.
The Final Choreography Salon featured student work from "Choreography I" and "Choreography II," courses that dance performance and choreography majors must take their sophomore and junior years. Students in "Choreography I" presented solos and duets, while students in "Choreography II" showcased small group dances.
Most of the pieces performed feature modern dance, while others incorporate contemporary ballet.
Presented in Studio A, the setting gives the show an informal atmosphere that contrasts with other dance performances throughout the year. The performance is based on the French model of salons in the 17th and 18th centuries, where people would gather to present their works and community members would give feedback.
Halfway through the semester, a midterm Salon is held, similar to French salons, where the audience gives feedback to the choreographers on what to work on and how to develop the pieces that will eventually be showcased in the final performance.
Junior Allison Dyke presented the piece that she developed in "Choreography II." Her piece is a modern dance that was inspired by Israeli dance companies.
Dyke said each dancer’s process for choreography is different and she developed her dance by creating long phrases of movement, each lasting about 20-30 seconds.
“I started manipulating it so people would start at different times and then I would add more variation,” Dyke said. “I decided on a beginning and added solos and then put the end on; it was a very nonlinear process.”
Final Salon featured original student work that dancers developed in "Choreography I," taught by Renay Aumiller, adjunct assistant professor of dance, and "Choreography II," led by Lauren Kearns, associate professor of dance.
According to Dyke, "Choreography I" was the first step in learning the tools for choreographing, such as energy and dynamics and what makes up movement. Choreography II incorporated ‘nuggets’, or two minute mini dance projects that some of the students developed into their dances for Final Salon.
“We do showings every week of our work and how it has progressed and ask for advice,” Dyke said. “Our professors don’t make the pieces for us but give us ideas on development and how to make them stronger.”
Over the course of the semester, Aumiller has seen a lot of growth in dancers’ abilities and their process of taking creative risks through their choreography. Some students have never choreographed before taking "Choreography I."
“To see and experience others watch something you created is like putting your brain on display and inviting others to witness it," Aumiller said. "The whole experience can be a whirlwind of vulnerability. But out of this experience, most students find excitement and learn something new about themselves through the process.”
Sophomore Abby Corrigan presented a duet, a piece that was inspired by a personal experience. She drew from different art forms and literature, and from there she was able to develop the structure of how her piece would evolve.
“My two dancers were really great because sometimes I would give them movement and say, ‘Play with this’, and other times I would say, ‘Come up with movement based off this idea,’” Corrigan said.
Final Salon was Corrigan’s choreography debut. She previously took a dance improv course, which is similar to choreographing because students learn how to create movement on the spot.
“What made choreographing easier was that it was rooted in such a personal place, so everything came naturally,” Corrigan said. “At times you can get really stuck because once you watch a piece so much it is hard to tell what’s good and what’s bad.”
Dyke said a challenge she faced while developing her piece was having to acknowledge that there is no right way to choreograph, and trusting that something good will come out of the creative process, despite having rehearsals where you lose inspiration.
“The act of coming up with movement and rearranging it has to do with your energy and level of inspiration,” she said. “You have some days where it’s really easy and some where it’s harder, sort of like any other art.”
Final Salon is unique because all the works being performed are student choreographed, in contrast to performances throughout the year done by professional dancers and faculty members, some whose works have been polished for years.
“A lot of the pieces will incorporate personal stories, and you can relate to them because they are choreographed and performed by other students,” Corrigan said. “There is such a variety of pieces that it will give a good taste of what our department does.”