Bold feet, tapping toes and swaying hips reflect and celebrate four years of hard work for both senior dance majors and their audience — especially the proud parents arriving early with flowers in hand. This past weekend’s annual Senior Dance Concert at the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts showcased every senior dance major at JMU.

“I think this concert is an amazing opportunity that the program gives us, because we spend four years here with literal blood, sweat and tears, just trying to become better dancers and working our butts off every day,” senior dance major Summer Stanley said.

For the seniors, this show is the culmination of their time at JMU — a time to show off what they learned and have fun with each other.

“This concert is like a celebration of all the seniors and the different works we’ve accomplished throughout the year,” said Kelley Biglin, a senior dance and sociology double major.

The concert was a collaboration among the dancers from the entirely student-choreographed show to lighting design and directing.

“It was really open to anybody who wanted to create anything and showcase what they’ve done in the past four years,” Darian Payne, a senior dance and communications double major, said.

The concert included a variety of dance through a wide range of expressions, including two pieces with all 23 senior dance majors on stage. The first was an entire company hip-hop piece choreographed by senior dance major Tara Bottino and danced to “Sorry” by Justin Bieber.

The other piece featuring all of the seniors was the annual improvisational piece that closed the show. Each dancer had their own time to show off their dancing during this fun and upbeat jazz piece.  

“It’s really just a way for everyone to show what they do … and that’s our final bang to make everybody just have fun and really show what we’ve done the past four years,” Stanley said.

In addition to celebrating everyone’s hard work, each year the seniors support and honor a cause through the concert.

“This year we’ve decided to promote mental health awareness and just sort of start the conversion and [address] the stigma of mental health,” Lexi Thrash, senior dance and media arts and design double major, and co-director of the show, said.

Despite the dedication these dancers have put into their major, many of them also double majored and are finding ways to combine what they love.

“I love both of my majors,” Molly Dunlap, senior dance and social work double major, said. “If I was doing something that I just was half-hearted about, then I would not put the time in.”

While most of the seniors desire to pursue dancing after graduation, this means something different for each of them. Some of the seniors hope to perform professionally, many through a dance or performing company.

“I’m hoping to go into a performance career,” Payne said. “I would like to do things like Disney World or cruise lines — hopefully a company.”

However, some of the women are combining their interests. Biglin will be working for Teach for America and teaching at a dance studio, while Tori Powell, a senior dance and mental health advocacy double major, is attending graduate school for dance therapy.

“I’m actually combining my two majors fully to pursue that,” Powell said.

Stanley, who’s also pre-med, hopes to perform in addition to furthering the field of dance medicine after graduation. 

“I’m definitely looking to help bridge the gap and make dancers less afraid to go to the doctor, and doctors to understand what dancers go through,” Stanley said.

The dancers showed a love of dance, excitement for this concert and the community both on stage and in conversation.

“I think the best part of the Senior Dance Concert is getting to work with everybody now after we’ve had four years of learning and growing together,” senior dance major Sarah Canning, said. “We see how much we’ve changed and grown and it’s just so much easier to work.”

As soon as the final piece was over and all the dancers step forward to bow, parents—followed by students—gave a heart-felt standing ovation.

“I think it’s really amazing for them to provide us with this opportunity to say ‘You did it — you’re going to make it through the major. Celebrate each other, take time to just have fun with each other, and congratulate each other,’” Stanley said.

Contact Rebecca Josephson at josephrc@dukes.jmu.edu.