Every year during Back to Bates weekend, Schaeffer Theatre hosts a dance concert featuring work by students, guest artists, choreographers, and faculty. It is a welcoming, celebrative environment that kicks off the theater and dance performance scene.
One of the trademarks of the Back to Bates concert is the all first-year piece. It is open to all first-years regardless of dance experience or current class enrollment. This year’s piece, choreographed by Shae Gwydir ‘20 and Alexandra Onuoha ‘20, featured solo and duet moments for all of the dancers.
The bright turquoise and green of everyone’s individual costumes, combined with the upbeat tone of the music, charged the piece with a strong feeling of buoyancy and enthusiasm. The cheers afterwards were loud and filled with shouts of excitement for this new generation of dancers taking their place on Schaeffer stage.
In addition to the first-year piece, student works appear throughout the concert. My favorite piece of the entire afternoon was “Uda Clarke,” also choreographed by Onuoha ‘20. All four dancers were dressed in ethereal white ensembles, with four chairs lined up at the back of the stage.
The dance was set to a song with repeating lyrics, so while the words themselves faded into the background, the emotion of that moment bled through. It created an awesome performance, and all four dancers performed beautifully.
The concert also featured excerpts of work done by guest artists. The first, “Last Dance,” was choreographed by Mark Jeffery, who recently completed a two-week choreography residency. This piece was set on students in the Repertory Styles class, and featured elaborate costumes.
The work stemmed from two challenges the students were tasked with: demonstrating a repetitive action, and the question of what would they want featured in their last dance. The performed excerpt featured everyone participating in these actions separately and together.
It was hard figuring out exactly where to look because there was so much interesting stuff to see. The performance also featured many seniors, making the idea of a ‘last dance’ feel even more poignant.
The second was an untitled piece choreographed by Kimberly Bartosik, who, at the time, had just finished the first week of her two-week residency. The excerpt was short, but action-packed. The dancers raced around the stage and house at breakneck pace.
Bartosik explained before the piece that it was grounded in the idea of speeding up time, of jumping into the next phase of life. As such, there were some quite literal jumps, done in a partnering sequence so that the dancers were jumping independently, but meeting an assist from a partner.
Student club 2B.E.A.T.S. also brought extreme energy to the stage. 2B.E.A.T.S. is a hip-hop club, high-energy is their M.O. They did a mash-up performance set to four different songs. The whole club was in perfect sync, and the faster the movements got, the more excited the audience became.
The Taiko Club also performed a piece. Taiko is a Japanese stick percussion instrument. The performance included several different styles of drums, and each player played multiple drums throughout. Taiko is highly choreographed form, and quite a different style from the previous pieces, so it was a great note to end the concert on the burst of energy you only get from being surrounded by drums.
Another highlight of the concert was an excerpt from the upcoming dance thesis performance, happening in Gannett Theater Nov. 8-9. Gwydir and Ellie Madwed ‘20 participated in a whirlwind three-day residency with choreographer James Graham as part of their senior theises. The performed excerpt included moments of theatricality, earning much laughter from the audience for the over-the-top facial expressions, and some jaw-dropping lifts and partnering, all in complete silence.
In addition to the senior thesis performance, the Marcy Plavin Fall Dance Concert runs Nov. 16-18 in Schaeffer Theatre. All tickets are available on Eventbrite. As Back to Bates shows, this year’s dance scene is full of energy, athleticism, enthusiasm, and breathtaking beauty that you don’t want to miss.