Dancers Take the Spotlight

By Hannah Kebede
Elm Staff Writer

1969: The Vietnam War, Richard Nixon, The Beatles and the creation of the Washington College Dance Program by Professor Karen Smith. Forty-five years later, on the eve of her retirement, Smith has a chance to look back on her years as the dance professor and the artistic director for the Dance Company at WC and enjoy her final annual Spring Dance Recital.

“The dance program has continued to exceed my expectations as WC gets more and more talented and skilled students with a dance background who wish to continue dancing at college while pursuing their degrees in other areas,” said Smith. “Anyone with an interest in dance, including those with little or no prior experience, is welcome to participate in classes offered by the WC Dance Club, from which many dances in the concert are choreographed by the students teaching those classes.”

The shows took place Friday, April 19 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, April 20 at 2 p.m. There were about 25 dances in all, each one of them different. On Thursday, there was a shortened performance for local elementary school students brought to campus to watch. The music and choreography in this year’s recital covered everything from ballet to jazz to pop to hip-hop and showtunes.

“All the choreographers pick their songs based on the message or emotion they want to get across to the audience and we try to have a range of types of music to keep the show interesting,” explained freshman and choreographer Rebecca DeSantis.

“Most of the show consists of pieces choreographed and taught by students in the company,” added senior Beilin Zia. “Some of the dances in the show were choreographed and taught in the fall, and then we rehearsed them every other week this spring. Other dances were choreographed and taught this semester, so we have technically been working on this one show since September. We rehearse non-stop.”

The week leading up to the performances, Tech Week, was especially hectic for the dancers. Working around classes and homework, they must practice even more than they have been.

“We rehearse on the stage from 5 p.m. until around midnight or later,” said junior Kathryn Thoemke. “We have weekly rehearsals all semester for every single dance. Choreography is taught early in the semester so we use the rest of the time to clean and perfect our dances.”

All in all, the performances of the Spring 2013 Dance Recital were energetic, emotional and very professional. Their hard work is not only something that the dancers and their teachers should be proud of, but something that the entire campus should celebrate.

“Yes, after 45 years, I am hanging up my tap shoes,” said Smith. “But I’m retiring knowing that I drew in students to the program, many with no dance background, gave them skills they didn’t have, improved their technique and artistry, and fostered a lifelong appreciation for dance. My hope is that WC will support and encourage the growth of the dance program and see it as an indispensable part of a liberal arts education.”

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