Student Choreographers ‘Break the Ice’ In Preparation For Winter Dance Concert

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Courtesy of Ashley Jiang

Sophomore Emma De Felippo, junior Riya Takagi, senior Yuri Suh, sophomore Ashley Jiang, sophomore Bahati Laizer, junior Shreedevi Murugan, sophomore Amber Lea and sophomore Kaili Hellewell rehearse a student-led choreography titled “human.” This piece is about creating a distinction between the physical components of a human and what it means to actually be human, according to choreographer and sophomore Ashley Jiang.

The studio fills with a chaotic blend of music as dancers split off, merging together into small groups. They drift throughout campus, finding space in the studio, stage and outside to practice. Shifting from solo performances and group rehearsals, performers develop their own routines in anticipation for the upcoming winter dance concert “Breaking the Ice” on Dec. 2 and Dec. 3 in the theater at 7:00 pm.

Once a week since early September, students from Dance 3, Dance 4 and Dance Company have been meeting in small groups, working together to create their own specialized performances under the guidance of their fellow student choreographers. 

“Many of our student choreographers are choreographing for the first, second or third time, and they’re early in their choreographic journey,” dance teacher Samantha Gardner said. “So a lot of times they use the dancers to either bounce ideas off of or ask their opinions on things. Sometimes they’ll come in with an idea, and once they say it to the actual dancers, it either doesn’t work or that sparks a new idea, and so it’s really just an ongoing creative process.”

When I’m choreographing, I like to make sure that they are within their comfort zone, but I also don’t want them to stay too comfortable because I want to push them to be braver and to try different things.”

— Ayanna Correa

To acquire the position of a choreographer, candidates underwent a process in which they taught a part of a routine they had created to the class. Their choreography, leadership and teaching skills were assessed and the best were chosen as student choreographers for their respective class. 

Once the student choreographers were selected, they began designing a dance to perform and teach to their fellow classmates, according to Gardner. 

“When I’m choreographing, I like to make sure that they are within their comfort zone, but I also don’t want them to stay too comfortable because I want to push them to be braver and to try different things,” choreographer and junior Ayanna Correa said. 

Student-led choreographies incorporate a wide variety of creative styles and techniques from multiple different styles of dance, ranging from the grace of contemporary arrangements to the vitality of hip-hop, according to Correa. 

“I think it’s just interesting to be a part of the performing arts at school because it’s not really something that I’ve ever done,” choreographer and sophomore Ashley Jiang said. “I think the different choreographies will really let the audience see the different flavors of dance and how they all come together.”

Currently, the dancers have completed a majority of the choreography and are working on perfecting certain aspects of the routine with the rest of their group before the upcoming concert, according to dance company member and junior Chloe Doolaege. 

Due to COVID-19, the dance program was unable to hold live performances over the past year. This year’s winter concert will be the first since December 2019, and the dancers hope to use the concert as an opportunity to reconnect with the audience, according to Gardner. 

“I really like performing on stage, and performing is my favorite thing ever,” Correa said. “I’m really excited just to be back on stage and back in front of people because I love the energy that the audience brings.”