Students in GW’s dance program were on a mission over the weekend to expose the community to modern dance through their semi-annual dance concert.
Danceworks Fall 2006, which attracted more than 240 audience members at each show, featured 28 dancers and seven student choreographers in the Marvin Center’s Dorothy Betts Theater on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
“Many people are frustrated that they don’t understand modern dance, but you don’t need to necessarily understand modern dance to appreciate it and be touched by it,” said dancer and choreographer Carrie Kerstein, a senior.
Danceworks Fall 2006 combines the talent of students and faculty with the help of professional lighting and costume designers from outside GW. Danceworks concert director and choreography teacher Dana Tai Soon Burgess along with production director Carl Gudenius oversaw the entire production.
“(Danceworks) is a wonderful opportunity for students to self-guide and explore their emerging aesthetics, but with a safety net of caring, concerned mentors,” wrote Burgess in an e-mail.
Choreographers are all part of a class that is taken at the end of the dance major or minor. Everyone in the class must audition a piece for mainstage and perform it publicly whether or not it is chosen for Danceworks.
“It’s a completely different experience being a choreographer from a dancer,” said senior Marc?a Elena LoMonaco, who both choreographed and danced in the showcase. “You learn so much about the whole performance.”
Many of the student choreographers are seniors working on their thesis projects.
“I choreographed the first piece (in the performance) which will be developed further into my thesis project that will be performed at the end of the year,” said senior dancer and choreographer Aliza Rudavsky.
Performers said they appreciate the chance to both build their skills as dancers while also becoming more involved in the entire dance community.
“It becomes a pretty tight-knit community – we practice for a total of four hours a week for each piece,” said junior Carly Kontra, a dancer in the performance.
Juliette Mapp, this year’s visiting guest artist in the dance department, choreographed the piece Full Moon Half Sabbath and was the only faculty choreographer.
“It was very collaborative,” said Rudavsky, who worked with Mapp in last year’s Danceworks. “Juliette was really open to anything that looked beautiful.”
Working with Mapp afforded student dancers the opportunity to interact with an accomplished choreographer and learn about the process of choreography from her.
“The final product is very different from how it started; one thing just led to the other,” said Rudavsky.
The experiences gained from Danceworks, both as dancers and choreographers, are meant to help the dancers learn what to expect from a career in dance.
“Danceworks is an integral part of our dance program,” said Burgess. “It is the opportunity to experience how a career in the arts really functions. Without this opportunity a student would not be able to fully understand the field of dance and what to expect once they graduate.”
The many roles that need to be filled to put together the Danceworks performance – from choreographers to dancers to the stage managers – afford a variety of opportunities to experience a professional dance environment.
“I chose to take on the role of stage manager because I felt it would be a great experience to have prior to leaving college,” said sophomore Carolyn Kamrath. “I wanted to get in touch with members of the department outside of dance.”
Participants pride themselves on being able to expose the GW community to a high-caliber performance and modern dance itself.
“The dance world is a relatively small one and this event provides a professional show that is accessible to many people who may otherwise not ever witness dance of this type,” said senior Kristen LaRoche, who danced and choreographed.