Seventeen dancers emerged from the darkness, wearing simple leotards amid a sparsely illuminated, bare stage. Anticipation reverberated onstage as introductions were made. The applause subsided into silence, and the dancers assumed their positions. The annual Georgetown University Dance Company works-in-progress showcase had begun.
“Journey,” the name of this year’s showcase, invited the audience into the choreography process. Fluidity and progress characterized this stage of the choreography cycle. Led by Faculty Artistic Director Mané Rebelo-Plaut, this cohort of talented undergraduate dancers thoroughly prepared for this fall performance, rehearsing nine to 10 hours per week. In preparation for the showcase, the dancers also attended two courses in dance technique this semester.
While developing a repertoire of contemporary ballet, lyrical, modern and jazz, five members of the showcase also choreographed original pieces presented in this performance. Although the February showcase is meant to mark the culmination of the company’s efforts, this fall performance offered a more intimate glimpse into the dance process, without the ornate costumes or lighting design.
The first piece presented in the showcase, “Synapse,” used choreography to visually illustrate how neurons transmit messages. The piece explored the evolving dynamic of an individual within a group, with the interplay of pointe and soft shoe, as well as the juxtaposition of fluid group choreography with sharp movement.
The interactions between individual dancers and the unified company remained prevalent in the second piece, choreographed by Tiffany Kassidis (COL ’19). This piece presented a more contemporary performance, with an upbeat melody and vocals, while the swift cohesive movement of the dancers celebrated how the whole arises from the sum of its parts.
The following piece, titled “Impossible Year” after the Panic! at the Disco song, from Courtney Smith (COL ’21) explored trauma and pain with the accompaniment of the song. The piece incorporated many lifts and group movement to convey the collective experience of suffering, ending with the dancers lying sprawled on the stage. These movements evoked a powerful message to the audience of the dancers’ endurance of pain.
Themes of suffering and despair took on a new form in the fourth piece from a guest choreographer, who recounted the tale of Narcissus from Greek mythology. According to the legend, Narcissus rejected the love of the nymph Echo, leading the gods to enact vengeance by causing Narcissus to fall in love with his own reflection. Narcissus sunk into deep despair when he learned that his reflection could not reciprocate his love. The dancers in this piece all carried mirrors as they follow Narcissus’ journey, a direct parallel to the theme of the showcase as a whole. While themes of misery pervaded the piece, the technical complexity of the choreography offered a rich experience for the audience.
The show’s sixth piece, titled “Alegría,” meaning “happiness” in Spanish, provided a change in emotional experience for the audience with its joyful spirit and contemporary choreography. Choreographer Sarah Dieter (COL ’19), who also serves as the production director of the company, celebrated her final year on the Hilltop. Her piece reflected the culmination of her experiences as a Hoya.
A more lyrical technique characterized the choreography of Miranda Saunders (MSB ’20) in the seventh piece as dancers performed dynamic movements to utilize the space of the stage. The musical accompaniment of “Streetcar,” the Daniel Caesar song that gave the piece its name, evoked self-reflection and the passage of time, amplified by the stylistic choices of Saunders.
The penultimate piece, called “Scared to Be Lonely,” was choreographed by GUDC Student Director Madison Ferris (COL ’19) and delved into human connection by exploring the joy and pain of relationships. The piece included only four dancers to render a more intimate representation of relationships and love. The choreography stressed the ever-changing dynamic of relationships as dancers ran to and from each other, embracing and resisting one another as the piece progressed.
This theme of fluctuation continued in the showcase’s final piece, titled “Ode to Life,” which was led by a guest choreographer. The piece began with a solo and generated a whimsical feel as the choreography progressed through the four seasons of nature, demonstrating the intersectionality of the arts and the cycle of life. This meditation on the passage of time and life felt like a fitting finale, as the showcase itself celebrated the theme of journeying.
The fall works-in-progress showcase achieved great success in its pieces, exhibiting stylistically diverse and complex works while teasing what to expect in the February showcase. The upcoming performance will undoubtedly offer a polished display of this year’s season while celebrating the joys and sorrows of the human experience that underscore this fall showcase.