photo credit: Mark Garvin
photo credit: Mark Garvin

Harmony in Physicality: Ursinus College Dance Company’s Fall 2023 Dance Showcase

The Ursinus College Dance Company unveiled its fall 2023 showcase at the Lenfest Theatre within the Kaleidoscope Performing Arts Center on November 16th, 17th, and 18th. Themed “Motion, Timbre, & Rhythm,” this captivating presentation featured choreographic works from both esteemed faculty and talented students of the theatre & dance department, alongside contributions from special guest artists. Delving into pertinent issues, the showcase seamlessly blended solo performances and group numbers, each showcasing the artists’ authenticity while conveying profound messages through the medium of dance and performance arts.

Defining the themes of the performance fell onto the many perspectives of the students and faculty involved, in summary, motion in dance refers to the dynamic movement and flow of the performers, expressing both literal and abstract ideas through physicality. Timbre, in the dance context, encompasses the unique quality of each movement’s sound or tone, adding depth and nuance to the choreography. Rhythm, a fundamental element, dictates the pattern and pace of movements, establishing a cohesive and harmonious structure within the dance. The showcase incorporated audio interludes that eloquently explored these elements, providing a thematic thread that enhanced the audience’s understanding of the performances.

The inaugural piece, “Agency,” a choreographic creation by Sophiann Moore, artfully addressed the theme of bodily autonomy during the turbulent period of the overturn of the Supreme court case Roe v Wade. Incorporating a skillful fusion of group segments and co-collaborated solos, the piece eloquently celebrated each dancer’s unique abilities while offering a poignant exploration of their thoughts on the loss of bodily autonomy. Clad in white attire adorned with words and phrases echoing this theme, the performers delivered a powerful narrative.

Following suit was “To Build a Home,” a poignant creation by student choreographer Molly Sherman. This senior’s piece served as a reflective ode to her collegiate years, masterfully supported by the ensemble on stage. The lyrical composition artfully underscored themes of friendship, support, and the grounding essence found in the camaraderie among the dancers. Passionate in its lyrical style, the many dancers triumphed over the stage and artistically displayed the senior’s piece.

“Presto,” a solo performance by Chris Gerrow, marked the third dance of the evening, capturing the infectious energy and joy inherent in the act of dancing. Displaying a unique style blending elements of voguing and waacking, Chris delivered a captivating solo, complemented by impressive lighting and audio design that heightened the piece’s intensity.

Dr. Karen Clemente’s choreography took center stage with “Swingin’ at Duke’s Place,” the fourth number. This joyous piece, set in a 1930s through 1940s Harlem, Brooklyn ballroom ambiance, showcased the talents of both dancers and theatre students. The classic jazz stylings were enhanced by a standout vocal performance and instrumental accompaniment, creating a lively, jiving atmosphere.

The fifth piece, crafted by Michael Love, featured improvised solos within the ensemble and bore the title “Getting to Paradise Is Gonna Take a Lot of Work.” Commencing with evocative clips of iconic running-themed videos, including present-day track and field stars and vintage tap-dancing sequences, and iconic music video clips from Flyana Boss, the piece offered a dynamic exploration of the concept of “running to an elsewhere” while exploring Black American traditions in order to do so.   

The grand finale, “Behind The Mask,” choreographed by Emanuel “Manny” Chacon, provided a fitting conclusion to the showcase. Celebrating the art of stepping, the piece artfully encapsulated the dancers’ stories as they navigated the challenges of COVID-19 during their time at Ursinus College. Rooted in percussive elements, this final piece left indelible impressions with its powerful moments and resonant storytelling.

Proud to have once been a dancer on this stage and now writing about my Alma Mater, the showcase presented the core of the dance and theatre department in its wish to lay out the roots of American life in its dance history.

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