Student choreography, dancers take center stage

17-UAA Dance in performance_POSTER-1.jpgDance in Performance is an annual event put on by the UAA Department of Theatre and Dance every fall and has been running under the name “Dance in Performance” for the last 15 years. It will feature seven choreographers, including three new student-choreographers and a cast of 35 dancers. Some of the dancers featured are working toward a dance minor or are a part of UAA Dance Club.

Auditions for the show start around the first week of each fall semester and have been described as “laid back” and “very inclusive.”

“As a choreographer, auditions are super important for us. It’s our first time we get to see the whole cast and see which people are going to fit well with us,” Marlee Hughes, a dance minor, Dance Club treasurer and one of the new student-choreographers, said. “It’s a unique process of understanding your dancers and you don’t get that long to see it.”

After auditions, the dancers and choreographers head into several months of rehearsals of creating, learning and practicing the dances envisioned for the final show. Rehearsals are once a week for about two hours. The cast then moves into a first showing, five to six weeks after rehearsals start.

The first showing allows other dancers to see each others’ performances and give feedback. During tech week, a week before opening night, the dancers move into the Harper Studio to start getting used to the space and to sort out the technical side of the production, including lights, costumes and practicing by cue.

“You see your piece on the stage and you get to practice it… and I think that’s a really magical moment,” Rhiannon Roseman, Dance Club representative, said.

In addition to being another new student-choreographer, Roseman is pursuing a minor in dance.

“You just see this vision coming to life, for both the choreographers and the performers,” Roseman said. “It’s just so cool to see all the things really mesh together.”

The dances performed are mostly modern and contemporary in genre but have a wide variety of dancers from all different technical and experience backgrounds. Some of the dancers have never performed before, and some are getting back into it. The department wants all dancers regardless of experience or training background to join.

The three new student-choreographers include Roseman, Hughes and Olivia Brown. Katie O’Loughlin, a recent graduate of UAA’s Department of Theatre and Dance, will also be choreographing in this year’s production. Choreographing takes a lot of time, commitment and trial and error, but Roseman was excited about the opportunity.

“I’ve been sitting on my concept for a while. For me, before the school year even started, like all summer, I’ve been brainstorming [my dance] and putting the music together… I was more excited as a choreographer when people said ‘yes’ to my piece than when I was a performer and people would ask me. It’s so rewarding to have people that actually want to come and work with you,” Roseman said.

Olivia Brown. Photo credit: Katherine Behnke.

After the months of preparation, the cast and crew hope it is something that the audience will understand and, or connect with.

“For choreographers, or people who make art, it’s a very intimate thing when you make this piece of art and you’re like, ‘This is mine and I love it,’ but you also hope someone else likes it and has a connection,” Hughes said.

The show runs around an hour and 15 minutes with no intermission.

“We never have enough arts in Anchorage,” Stephanie Lahn, sophomore dance minor and a performer in this year’s show, said. “It’s a great show, there’s a lot of different pieces… There’s a mix of different choreographers, all the dancers are really passionate about it and we just really want people to see us do what we love to do.”

Lahn has performed each semester during her attendance at UAA. She is also Dance Club secretary and is part of the wardrobe crew for the show.

Roseman, Hughes and Lahn, along with three others, are all a part of UAA’s Dance Ensemble, a group of dancers who commit to one full scholastic year of being on a team similar to a professional performing dance company. The Ensemble members meet three times a week for about two to three hours per practice. They are currently planning to attend the American College Dance Association conference in Boston, in early 2018. The team will be performing two numbers in the coming show.

Tickets for Dance in Performance are $11.99 for UAA students, $14.99 for the general public and are available at artsuaa.com. Wednesday through Saturday, Nov. 15-18, showtimes are 8 p.m. The last show, on Sunday, Nov. 19, is at 6 p.m. Previously, shows have sold out before opening night, so purchasing tickets in advance is strongly recommended.