Spring Dance Concert shows off students’ versatility

GVL / Marissa Dillon
The Dance Department at Grnad Valley is preparing for their Spring Concert.

GVL / Marissa Dillon The Dance Department at Grnad Valley is preparing for their Spring Concert.

Mary Mattingly

While the semester may be winding down, many students’ schedules are doing everything but. Students who well understand this phenomenon are Grand Valley State University’s dance majors. This weekend will showcase a semester’s worth of preparation culminating in the dance department’s Spring Dance Concert.

“It’s rewarding (to see the concert) because you see the growth — not only from where the piece starts. Even during the week of the show when we are running pieces every single night, you see the growth in that one week from the beginning of the semester,” said Carrie Brueck Morris, a GVSU dance professor. “You have new people rising up to the challenge in each concert. It’s very rewarding in that way.”

The Spring Dance Concert showcases the training and skills dance majors learn throughout the semester, and it features a variety of pieces. The concert will take place Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Louis Armstrong Theatre in the Performing Arts Center. Admission is free.

“The program, itself, has a lot of variety: there’s two ballet works, jazz, (and) there’s a few really distinctly different modern dance works, so the performers have to be really versatile. That’s another way that (the dancers are) growing in general,” said Jessica Bonenfant, this semester’s sabbatical replacement for Shawn Bible. “One minute they might be on stage with pointe shoes, and ten minutes later they’re moving really grounded and they have a mohawk or something. That’s potentially happening in one of the guest artist’s works. It’s a challenge (the dancers) rise to really well.”

Each dance concert features choreography from both faculty members and guest artists-in-residence.

“We choose a range of people to provide students and the audience with a diverse perspective,” Morris said. “It’s not just the same people always choreographing, but something new. Even the faculty… are always creating new works for these concerts.”

This year, the semester features works choreographed by artists such as Marlayna Locklear and Rebecca Lemme. The dance department typically invites guest artists after hearing about them through word-of-mouth or by becoming familiar with their work through dance reviews. Once the artists are lined up to teach at GVSU, they come for a one-week intensive workshop in which they teach students the choreography. The faculty then spend the rest of the semester working through that choreography with the students.

As one of the faculty members, Bonenfant created a piece for the dance concert. She found inspiration from images as well as poetry by Jim Carroll and Anne Sexton.

“I started (choreographing) where I started, and where I ended was different — I ended somewhere unexpected,” Bonenfant said. “I started with images of these underwater sculptures that have all these beautiful sea plant life growing on them…I have ended up along the way working with a different poem by Anne Sexton and letting go of the underwater imagery and figuring out that is a work about love letters.”

While some choreographers prefer to have their routines set from the get-go, she prefers to let her pieces grow.

“It’s been a crazy process collaborating with the performers — they’re contributing material and partnering ideas,” Bonenfant said. “They’re also contributing their voices. There was speaking with the poetry, but now some of that has become singing. I even ended up changing the song I was working with. Now (the piece has gotten) a doo wop, retro, ‘50s-‘60s feeling.”

She said she feels that her piece presents the dancers an opportunity to try something new.

“I think it challenged them in new ways because there’s not a lot of speaking and singing in modern dance here at Grand Valley,” Bonenfant said. “So they’re developing new skills or drawing skills from other parts of their life. They have this experience, and we speak everyday to translate that to the stage. It has been a growing experience for them. It’s dance theatre.”

The concert will show audiences the ways in which GVSU has prepared its dancers for the professional world.

“Grand Valley really prepared me to go out into the dance world and succeed in a variety of styles,” said Carley Klebba, a senior dance major. “I could go to a commercial audition for Beyoncé or I could audition for a company…. They’ve prepared me to be ready for everything.”