By Robyn Belt
Nothing quite staves off the cold of a winter term in Schenectady like staying active or taking in a theatrical performance. For the three dancers that I had the pleasure of interviewing, however, this notion is particularly true.
We know that a winter term at Union College brings more than just a bitter frost. Our dance department is once again producing a revue show for the Yulman Theater main stage and this year’s “Circling. BEginnings” promises to be an engaging treat. Under the direction of Miryam Moutillet, artist in-residence and Dance department head, “Circling. BEginnings” is a performance that contains dreamlike depictions of the seasons. Through the abstraction of modern dance and live music, “Circling. BEginnings” features the original choreography of several dance students. I decided to pick the brains of Samantha Moyer ‘14, Jenna Langhans ‘13, and Mary Suttie ‘15, three dancers who created original pieces as either a senior project or independent study. I wanted to gain some insight into the creation of choreography and hear what most excited these dancers about the upcoming show.
Jenna and Samantha, what is the creative process like for creating an original dance? How long are the spells that you typically work in and how is the music incorporated into rehearsals?
Jenna: Some days I will listen to the music 30 times and nothing will come to me, and other days I put it on and suddenly have a bunch of ideas pop into my head. It can be really exciting but also very frustrating. I always work at night in the studio. I can’t think in the mornings or during the day, and I will stay in the studio until either it has been a while and nothing is coming to me or until I’m satisfied with how much I have choreographed. Sometimes you need a break from forcing yourself to think of moves and you have to let them come to you.
Samantha: I am creating a piece for the “Summer” tableau of this year’s show. I have chosen to create my piece with five dancers; including four peers and myself. However, when I am creating choreography, I work alone in the studio. I will spend one or two hours working with my music to create a piece that will embody the spirit of my season. Whenever I hit a roadblock, I look online on YouTube at a variety of visual material to get inspired by the extraordinary range of musicality, rhythm, and moves.
Samantha, which style of dance are you adapting and why did you choose that particular genre?
Samantha: I will be adapting lyrical and hip hop into my piece, meshing harsh and soft movements. I am interested in trying to create a hybrid work that seamlessly integrates the structure of formal dance, while also embracing the groove of hip hop.
Mary, how did you decide to incorporate the theme of this year’s show in your choreography? Were there any images/moments/musical selections that inspired you and got the metaphorical “ball” rolling?
Mary: I chose the fall season because I was really inspired in the fall term by all of the beautiful colors of autumn and how the leaves moved as they fell from the trees. I also am incorporating the theme of “Circling BEginnings” into my piece by involving circular movements in my choreography. The music that inspired my choreography is the song “Passage” by Andy Iorio, the pianist who will play at the show. I loved the repetitive components of this piece because it reminded me of leaves falling from a tree and the cycles of human life.
Jenna, congrats on an upcoming graduation! Any plans for dance in the next year/some time future?
Jenna: Thank you! It’s a bit scary to think about. I don’t have any set plans for post-graduation as of right now, but I really would like to continue dancing and performing after college. It’s sad to think that I only have 1.5 more terms of being able to dance almost every day. I think it will be much harder to find opportunities to continue dancing outside of college, but I’ve tried to not think about it because not dancing seems so foreign to me! Hopefully I will find some classes to take after graduation!
Now for some hard-hitting journalism. Ladies, in honor of the theme of this year’s show, what are your favorite seasons?
Mary: My favorite season is winter because I love the snow and how there is a peaceful blanket of white outside after a snowstorm.
Jenna: I really like the fall and summer seasons. Summer is one of my favorites because the dances in it are upbeat and fun and the costumes during this season will be made with bright colors. I love to dance to fast pieces where I can smile and have fun with them, and that’s what this summer season alludes to.
Samantha: Fall because I love when the leaves change.
Which seasons are you most excited to depict in the show? Any favorite numbers yet?
Mary: I am looking forward to representing the fall season in my own piece, especially because I have never choreographed a modern dance piece before. I am excited to see the entire show as the different pieces weave together to form one big cycle of movements and seasons.
Jenna: I really like the jazz piece we are doing in the summer season to the song Jai Ho. It’s really fun to dance to and the music makes you want to dance! Practice is always exciting!
The shows will take place from March 6-9th at 7:30 PM with additional Saturday matinée at 2:00 PM on the Yulman Theater Main Stage. Tickets, which can be purchased at the box office or by calling (518)-388-6545, are $7 with a Union ID and can be charged to declining or $10 for general admission.