By Victoria Gill
To end the semester of student and faculty productions, the Department of Theatre & Dance put on “Dancescape 2019” in Decker Theatre on Nov. 22 and 23. This annual showcase takes place in the fall semester, while the dance club runs their own showcase in the spring.
According to the Department of Theatre & Dance’s website, “this year’s concert includes Musical Theater, Capoeira, Ballet, West African, Contemporary, and Modern Dance.”
“It’s really about building a culture of dance, perform, that is both rigorous and rooted in community engagement and principals,” said Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance A.T. Moffett. “I want this to be mutually beneficial to the students who make art and choose to participate in the work, as well as to the department.”
Students who auditioned have spent the semester studying different styles of dance, and shared the stage with guest artists, including Raina Lucas of Georgetown University, Broadway alum Benjamin Sterling Cannon, and Washington College’s own Professor Suzanne Thuecks, lab instructor of biology.
“We intentionally cast a wide net in term of styles, but we connect throughout the semester through feedback showings,” said Moffett. She is the director of the dance minor. Based in Wilmington, DE, Moffett is also an arts education consultant and performer across the country.
These feedback showings happen the first and second month into the process to build cohesion and unity. The show is slightly different every year due to the guest artists that are brought in.
Seniors Rachel Hall, Despina Thomas, and Caitlyn Creasy, and junior Rhoda Oluwalana choreographed the pieces “All That Jazz,” “Breathe,” “I’m Torn,” and “Umojo,” respectively, with the dance faculty. Some students are working with dance students in the area for movement education.
Oluwalana’s piece fuses the contemporary with the traditional.
“I felt like, it was necessary for me to definitely introduce or express the traditional aspect. That came easy to me. But, at the same time, I wanted to bring a more modern side of the traditional side of the piece. I wanted to show the [audience] the newer generation,” she said.
Oluwalana said she was proud that this vision that was inside her head for months came to life.
Lucas is a Maryland native but spent most of her adult life in North Carolina teaching dance at various universities and colleges. Upon returning to the Eastern Shore, she wanted to see what the dance scene was like. She soon connected with Moffett to work with the student dancers on her choreography for “The Invitation.”
The Capoeira is a Brazilian dance that combines with martial arts and music. Lucas said that she visited Rio De Janeiro back in 2010 to study this form of dance, and over the past few years this has developed into more of a research interest as she finds time to engage in the practice itself. While Lucas was in North Carolina, she said she built up a community of “capoeiristas,” as they continued to help her discover more about the form.
“I have a lot of contemporary dance, so when I was asked to come and bring this to life; to work with the dancers and introduce them to this form, I thought it would be a really great way to blend what they understand from a contemporary movement perspective to introducing them to something that is out of their range of what they may understand,” Lucas said.
Embodying this form, according to Lucas, is historically confrontational. This could be seen in the dance itself as a group of women personified warriors ready for battle.
“[Dance] teaches us a lot about our lives and what’s happening in society and helps us to reflect in a way that is not as in your face,” Lucas said.
“I certainly see at least an emotional arch that has been created by combining everything in the way that we did. We did put a lot of thought into the order of the show, what’s going to start and what’s going to end, and try to craft that feeling that we wanted to create from these different styles and how we put them together,” junior and stage manager Patrick Salerno said.
Prior to this production, Salerno had no dance experience. When coming to the team, he said there was a definite difference in how collaboration differed between theatre and dance productions. He describes this as this democratic process with an unspoken structure. Both he and Moffett agreed that this forming arch of the show starts to forge itself as trust between the dancers and choreographers and accelerates during tech week.
“We trust that there will be this connective tissue, this energy or emotion, or narrative even that will emerge, but we don’t lead with that we find it,” Moffett said in terms of both dance and collaboration. “It’s really important to me, as the dance minor director, that we make sure dance doesn’t just look one way.”
Moffett’s piece, “Watershed,” is another draft of a piece she’s been working on since the summer. It’s been performed in Delaware with other collaborators. It discusses watersheds as ecological events and as metaphors of turning points in one’s life.
“It’s important to tell stories through embodying and sharing. We as a group, thinking about a community, we come together with all of these diverse voices and diverse ways of experiencing movement and it’s an important thing to be able to share,” Moffett said.