GVSU hosts annual Fall Dance Concert

GVL / Emily Frye   
GV senior dance recital rehearsal on Thursday November 30, 2017.

GVL / Emily Frye GV senior dance recital rehearsal on Thursday November 30, 2017.

Jenny Adkins

With house lights on and audience members still moving into the seats of the Louis Armstrong Theatre inside the Haas Center for Performing Arts, two dancers clad in black stood in the aisle, dancing up and down the rows in sync with dance partners across the theater. After their dance, the lights dimmed and the annual Fall Dance Concert began.

The concert, which took place Saturday, Dec. 2, and Sunday, Dec. 3, was the cumulative effort of the GVSU Dance Company and Freshman Dance Company classes throughout the first semester.

“On their very first day of class, they had an audition for the first guest artist,” said Carrie Morris, the dance curriculum coordinator. “So, we’ve started from the very beginning and have been working all semester.”

The concert was a collaboration between GVSU dance faculty and guest artists, with each choreographing and holding auditions for different student dancers. Morris said each choreographer had freedom, which helped create a diverse show. 

“Each choreographer has worked independently on this, so there are 10 different works,” Morris said. “They are thematically totally different from each other.”

Some of the pieces even sought to tackle various social and political issues through dance.

“One of our guest artists came in with a dance about the objectification of women’s bodies and then expanded beyond that to objectification of bodies in general,” Morris said. “There’s work that tackles more of social or political issues. One of the works I created is just about music, and there’s live accompaniments on stage by musicians, so it really ranges.”

For GVSU Dance Company dancer Sarah Byington, her participation in four dances—two under the supervision of guest artists and two under GVSU faculty—gave her a split experience in preparing for the concert. While working with faculty was more relatable for her, working with guest artists had a learning curve. 

“I think the biggest difference is when we auditioned for (guest) pieces, we have absolutely no idea what they’re looking for, what they had in mind and what their style is,” Byington said. “When we work with a faculty member, we kind of know how they choreograph and what their process is.”

Part of the reason for engaging guest artists is to add both variety and a different kind of professionalism, Morris said. In working with guest choreographers like Susan Brooker, Kristi Faulkner and Simon Thomas-Train, students were given a taste of professional dance outside of school. 

“The concert helps them prepare for a professional career in dance,” Morris said. “This is the kind of work that many of them hope to be doing in the future where they will join a company or be a part of a performance group in some way and be able to do this kind of thing where they spend time working with choreographers and eventually get out to perform.”

For Morris, the show aimed to give students the ability to experience “the joy of performing.” While the performances highlighted student growth, work and artistic expression, Morris said the main goal was to put on the concert for others, not the performers.

“People always ask me, ‘What is it about?’” Morris said. “And really anything that comes to your mind, anything that you think it’s about, is what it’s about.”