An Inside Look at the Dance Area’s Virtual Performance Showcase

Each semester, members of the dance area have traditionally come together to present a showcase of student work known as the “Dance Area Performance Showcase” or DAPS. This year, with the shift to online learning amidst shelter-in-place protocols, faculty and students have had to adjust their plans to preserve some semblance of what a normal semester would look like. For our dancers, this included reinventing their DAPS showcase as a YouTube playlist; sharing videos of online classes and experiments as well as virtual performances of their final projects.

Sara L. Paul’s Advanced Ballet Class

For her Advanced Ballet students, Sara L. Paul conducted synchronous classes via Zoom, honing barre routines and assigning students to develop their own conditioning exercises. In both this class and her Ballet II class (typically comprised of non-majors), she instructed students to teach a ballet combination to a friend or family member. Finally, her Advanced Ballet class was tasked with learning a classical variation from the ballet Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes and then manipulating it for a recorded solo. “I was thrilled to see how involved my students were,” shares Paul. “They were conscientious, dedicated to their education and expressed how much they like having a community and a consistent, predictable movement practice.”

Gesel Mason’s Contemporary Dance and Movement Composition Classes

Three dancers posingStudents taking Gesel Mason’s Contemporary Dance class were taught, also via Zoom, a solo piece she choreographed, No Less Black, which was featured as part of Mason’s project entitled NO BOUNDARIES: Dancing the Visions of Contemporary Black Choreographers. Mason suggested that they record their performances “in a way that offered a kinesthetic and empathetic sense of who they are.” Their responses were compiled and edited by videographer Eliot Fisher. In her Movement Composition class, students were required to create a three to five-minute-long solo performance that was inspired by a prompt or idea. She encouraged students to “play, experiment, make bold choices, push extremes, lean into discomfort and break the ‘rules.’”

Charles O. Anderson’s Contemporary Class

Also working through Zoom, faculty member and head of the dance area Charles O. Anderson assigned his students, working in groups, to develop their own versions of “an exercise of the set Afro-Contemporary warm-up that attends to the physical principles of the original exercise and that demonstrates an understanding and regard for the philosophical/aesthetic Africanist principles informing the exercise.” He then instructed students to teach their exercises to the rest of the class.

Other classes used their online assignments as an opportunity for unique DAPS projects. For instance, Dorothy O’Shea Overbey and Magdalena Riley both asked their students to create site-specific solos, encouraging them to “really experiment with their chosen sites and to allow the limitations/opportunities of those spaces to shape their choreographic choices,” shares Riley. While the virtual presentations featured in this year’s DAPS performances were varied and unique, the thread of continuity between them all was the faculty’s pride in their students’ innovative work.

We’ve compiled a snapshot of some of these pieces below in order to extend their sense of community beyond the reaches of the Department of Theatre and Dance so that we may join together in celebrating creativity and continued connection amidst our socially distant world.