This week The Bates Student talks with senior Elisabeth “Shae” Gwydir about her college experiences with dance and theater.
TBS: How did you decide to participate in performance arts at Bates? Did you want to do this coming into college, or did you get into it once you were here?
Shae Gwydir (SG): Well, I definitely knew I wanted to dance in college. I had grown up dancing, ever since I was two years old. Right at the start of my college search, I was looking for a school with a strong dance program, and Bates had a whole department! What really made up my mind about pursuing dance at Bates was a conversation I had with Carol Dilley at an open house I attended as a prospective student…it was so cool that a professor would take time out of her busy day to talk to me, since I wasn’t even sure I was coming yet. So, I always knew I wanted to study and perform dance at Bates.
However, I had not intended to be a part of theater here, even though I enjoyed it as a kid. Luckily, a friend invited me to work on the choreography for Little Shop of Horrors when I was a sophomore. I had a great time. After that, I became best friends with so many theater students and active with the Robinson Players…Theater people have become my rock, and I couldn’t imagine Bates without them.
TBS: How do the arts fit into your daily life at Bates?
SG: For starters, I’m a dance major. So every semester I’ve been a part of at least one studio dance class, whether that’s modern, improv, or ballet. Then I have to fulfill other dance requirements, but the classes are so fun I would have checked them out even if I didn’t have to for my major.
This semester, I’m spending even more time with dance, since I’m doing my thesis. It’s a year-long, so right now I’m working on performance research with guest artists, spending at least 15 quality hours with them every week. They all have so much to share, and I’m always learning from them. Next semester, I’ll produce my own 20-minute-long dance for the Spring Dance Concert. In the end, I hope to have my own answer for the big question: “What is performance?” Theater is also a big part of my life. I’ve been the webmaster and historian for the Robinson Players for two years now. Also, depending on when shows are running, I’m part of strike crew or set up. That can take a lot of time! Once I was up till one in the morning preparing the stage for the next day. But it’s more than just time…my social life has a lot of theater people in it, including my roommates this year.
I do dance outside of class, too. I’m the executive director of the Dance Club on campus. Right now we haven’t done much, but once the Back to Bates Dance Concert is done [happening October 5 and 6, 2019], the club will be back up and going full swing.
TBS: As a senior, what has been your favorite dance class so far?
SG: Early Modern Dance History with Carol Dilley. It wasn’t my first “academic dance class”, but it provided a very strong foundation for my interest in modern dance. In high school, I didn’t have the opportunity to study dance as a field of scholarship and exploration, so this class brought a nice perspective for me. It showed that I could make a career out of dance, which was a very validating and supportive experience for my passion in this subject.
TBS: Which performance has meant the most to you during your Bates career?
SG: With each and every performance I have learned something, from every dance, theater show, and guest artist. But if I had to pick one, it would be Little Shop of Horrors, because if I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have been able to go on and do other wonderful productions like Seussical and Camp Rock. I also got to meet so many great people.
Last year’s Spring Dance Concert was so great, too, though. I got to be part of three different performances, and each was such a totally different experience. I loved helping others with their theses and learning from the variety of styles and methods. I worked with so many inspiring role models here.
TBS: What is the most challenging part of being a performer? On the other hand, what do you find the most rewarding?
SG: Balancing time commitments is the hardest. You have to put your full energy and intention into every single performance and process. Not only for the choreographer and professor, but for the audience and fellow participants as well. It can be exhausting.
Now, the best part is the sense of community. I am so fortunate to have fellow intellectual academics that can talk with for hours on end about theory and dance-making, or I can boogie with them in the studio, or just relax together. Seeing them grow as artists and performers…I really don’t think it gets better than that. They’ve become my best friends, all thanks to doing dance and theater.
TBS: How do you plan to pursue dance and theater after your senior year?
SG: I don’t know what specifically I’m going to do after Bates, but I do know that dance and performance will remain a significant part of my life. I’d love to do more with dance, but I don’t know exactly what that “more” is yet. Still, at least I know that a profound appreciation of the performance arts will be with me for the rest of my life, no matter what the circumstances may be.