Dancers clad in burgundy and black walk, then run, onto the stage. In another piece, light reflects off fingers and bottoms of feet; dancers flow between three spots of light. Moving silhouettes fade into the dark depth of the stage, and 13 times the curtain closes on these shapes.
Last week, dancers in the Fall Student Dance Concert in the Earlynn J. Miller Dance Theatre performed these pieces each night from Wednesday to Saturday. Not only were the dancers undergraduate students of JMU’s School of Theatre and Dance, but so were the directors, choreographers, costumers and technicians.
“We have less than a week and a half to put together a whole show, and granted some things happen before, but there’s only so much you can do to prepare,” Kelley Biglin, a senior dance major and co-director of the production, said.
This concert is a biannual show for the department, with a show in the fall and the spring. There are usually two freshman pieces, and the rest of the pieces are chosen through an audition process. This fall, out of the 30 that auditioned, 11 works were chosen for the show.
The style of dance for these pieces was mainly modern and contemporary, with a little hip-hop at one point, but the topics for the pieces varied from comical and fun to serious pieces.
“There’s a piece about cancer, a piece about body image — just kind of loving yourself — and then there are some pieces that are simply movement-based,” Biglin said. Snow says the comical pieces are also relatable for the audience.
“There’s other pieces that are comical to the point that they relate to our lives here at JMU, and I feel like the audience — if they’ve been in Forbes or if they’re part of the dance community — will be able to connect with it really well and find it very comical,” Snow said.
Laughter erupted from the audience as the piece “Welcome to Forbez” joked about being behind the scenes of a show, but vigorous applause also followed dancers announcing “as I am” in an emotional piece of the same name.
“It is more relatable because it is choreographed by students that are your age and that are at college, and they definitely want to show work that people will enjoy,” Snow said.
As for the rest of the production for the concert, members of JMU’s Contemporary Dance Ensemble were required to have a position.
Joey Sandy, a junior dance major and performer in the show was backstage crew in this production.
“It’s kinda hard to go from being in all black, change really quick and then run onstage, come off, and be backstage again, but this concert is the most fun that I’ve had,” Sandy said.
Snow and Biglin were chosen by faculty for the co-director position.
“When I see our teachers doing these kinds of things, I feel like now I’m going to be able to also get a chance to learn that and how they do it and how much it takes to run a show and make it successful,” Snow said.
Co-directing means helping to run auditions, creating the show order and organizing warm-up. But Biglin said it’s not as simple or clear cut as it may sound.
“There’s so many people to manage and a lot happening really quickly,” Biglin said.
In addition to co-directing the show, Biglin and Snow also choreographed pieces. While Biglin co-choreographed “Music for 10 Dancers,” a freshman ensemble piece, Snow also choreographed her own piece called “f(u)sion.”
Snow choreographed her own piece titled “Uncharted Territory.”
“It deals with depression, but not just the word depression, the illness, but how do you handle yourself when you lose something or your whole world flips upside down?” Snow said. “How can you deal with it, either by yourself or with another person? It’s very gestural and not as much movement-based and more emotional.”
Though the show was a lot of work on all ends, after the Thursday performance, Biglin and Snow shared why it’s worth it.
“When you see everyone dancing and they come off the stage so excited, those are the moments that make you want to keep dancing,” Biglin said.
Snow agreed that it is the excitement surrounding the show that makes the show so much fun.
Even through the mess-ups and little mistakes, everyone is having so much fun because it’s dancing, and you’re with your friends, and you are doing what you love for an audience,” Snow said.
Contact Rebecca Josephson at email@example.com.