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WSU Dance Ensemble Strives for Positive Experience Amidst Pandemic

Creative Arts Center | Photo by Cheyenne Waddell | Edited by Jessica Fugett | The Wright State Guardian

Creative Arts Center | Photo by Cheyenne Waddell | Edited by Jessica Fugett | The Wright State Guardian

The Wright State University Dance Ensemble will be airing their Emerging Choreographers Concert, which features pieces by senior and junior dance students, on YouTube this year between Feb. 26 and March 7. 

Professor and Head of the Dance Program Teressa McWilliams began brainstorming ideas on how to give her students a valuable educational experience after the university ceased in-person classes last March. After talking with faculty and her students, the concept of the concert as a virtual film festival began to materialize. 

WSU Dance Ensemble | Photo submitted by KC Lyphout
WSU Dance Ensemble | Photo submitted by KC Lyphout

“I felt like they needed an opportunity to create and to perform, and even if that was virtual, it was still very beneficial,” McWilliams said. “It’s proved to be challenging, of course, but it has also pushed them in ways that are so creative and so inspiring.” 

The process of choreography 

Preparing for the Emerging Choreographers Concert begins early in the fall semester. Normally, the dance majors would be taught audition combinations in a room together and audition in person. 

This year, students learned the combinations through videos and sent videos of themselves in. A few weeks after this, rehearsals began, and these occurred in person. The music and movement in the dance are intertwined and assist in structuring the piece. 

“I started with a few small phrases and found the music and tried to find ways to add those into the music continuously each rehearsal,” senior choreographer Wilhelmina Marks said.  

WSU Dance Ensemble | Photo submitted by KC Lyphout

Feedback and structure 

The choreographers also gave each other feedback on their pieces.  

“You can learn so much about how your peers solve choreographic problems and how they create stories and build climaxes and emote,” senior choreographer KC Lyphout said. “There’s a lot to be learned always from our peers and there’s always a lot to learn ourselves, and identifying where we can grow and where we’re already strong.” 

A total of 15 pieces were created for the concert and filmed between the fall of 2020 and the middle of February 2021. Each piece is between five and nine minutes long and features a cast of up to five people. 

“It’s similar to a book,” senior choreographer Hannah Bond said. “There’s a beginning, middle and end, and so you want to make sure that you have all those things and that there’s really exciting things and then parts where the audience can rest.” 

Pieces were filmed in various locations, including parking garages, fields and the dance studio in the Creative Arts Center. Each of the choreographers is also editing their piece. 

“When you’re working with a camera, you have to make a lot of decisions about what way you want to show the movement, and when that comes into play, you have unlimited possibilities,” Lyphout said. 

Filming the piece has allowed the choreographers to add a whole new dimension to their work. 

“It can take away this sense that we have of the front of the stage versus the back of the stage because you can put the front anywhere at any time,” Lyphout said. “It becomes kind of like theatre-in-the-round if you want it to.” 

WSU Dance Ensemble | Photo submitted by KC Lyphout

Learning from experience 

Junior choreographer Megan Steinberger believes that working on this performance has prepared her for her senior concert. 

“I’ve figured out my timeline now,” Steinberger said. “There’s definitely some things I wish I’d done differently in my rehearsals. Like I had spread out the choreography a bit more so I want to see if I can finish it sooner and have more time in the cleaning process rather than the choreographing.” 

The concert is free to view beginning at 7 p.m Feb. 26 until 11:59 p.m. on March 7 on the Wright State Dance Ensemble YouTube channel. Donations are being accepted online for the Dance Student Fund. 

Maxwell Patton

Wright Life Reporter

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