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Annual Fine Arts College dance recital tackles modern-day issues

UK Dance production of HOME on Wednesday, January 31, 2024. Photo by Mark Cornelison | UKphoto

Clarification: The following story has been adjusted regarding choreographers as of Feb. 7, 2024.

UK student dancers hosted their annual dance concert, titled “Home,” consisting of an array of performances such as contemporary, ballet, hip-hop and an Irish dance piece. 

The performance consisted of five different 15-20 minute pieces, open to the public during Feb. 2-4 at the Guignol Theatre. 

Several different choreographers put together the pieces, which included “Seeking,” “Glaciation,” choreographed by Ali King, “Gather, Rince, Repeat,” “Vignettes: In Our Experience,” choreographed by Susie Thiel, and “Building the Beat,” choreographed by Project ChArma.  

Alyssa Rigney, a senior studying dance and biology, has been dancing for 20 years. She participated in “Vignettes: In Our Experience” and “Building the Beat.” 

Rigney said all choreography was taught during a week-long rehearsal in October. Rehearsals were then minimized to being held once a week. 

“We basically focused mainly on just building the community between the cast members,” Rigney said. “We already had the choreography set, that wasn’t really the hard part. The hard part was really getting it into our bodies and feeling it and just having a lot of fun.” 

“Vignettes: In Our Experience” was a piece on women’s rights that included singing, acting and instruments. 

“Vignettes” used speaking parts from dancers, discussing words women may be called today, rules they have to abide by and dances that communicated the physical pressure women feel, where dancers collapsed to the ground and struggled to get back up. 

“It was a lot of sitting and kind of talking with each other,” Rigney said. “There was a lot of discussion going on between our choreographer and the cast and we talked a lot about our experiences, what’s going on within the women’s rights realm, current events, past events, how we feel about a lot of things, and a lot of the movement that ended up coming up came out of those conversations.”

She said she had to overcome her fear of public speaking for “Vignettes.”

“I get really excited when I know what I’m talking about but sometimes when I have to like memorize things it can be a little bit intimidating,” Rigney said. “All of the dancers have had to like overcome some sort of fear in some way, especially for that piece.”

In “Building the Beat,” Rigney and her peers created rhythms with their bodies and surroundings. Clapping, smacking shoes and the floor, and stomping were all used in unison by dancers to create music. 

“(Building the Beat) also went really well but that piece is just really fun, we have a good time every time we come on,” Rigney said. 

She said “Glaciation” was a piece about global warming and was choreographed by an old friend of hers. 

“I’m just so proud cause I’m like ‘Aw man, I used to dance with her,’ and now she’s over here choreographing a whole dance piece about climate change, which is something that’s so important to talk about,” Rigney said. “So I’m just proud of her for being able to make a statement about something she’s passionate about.”

“Glaciation” featured sounds of ice breaking apart, while dancers drifted in and out of groups, sometimes collapsing to the ground.

UK Dance production of HOME on Wednesday, January 31, 2024. Photo by Mark Cornelison | UKphoto

Dancers used their upper bodies to depict themselves collapsing through arm movements and “melting” maneuvers. 

Melanie Turner, administrative assistant to the Department of Theatre and Dance and house manager, said she particularly loved Theresa Bautista’s piece, “Seeking.”

Rigney said “Seeking” was a “high-intensity” ballet piece.

The piece lasted 18 minutes, with dancers picking each other up, inverting themselves and incorporating proper ballet feet and form. 

“It’s so different from the things I’ve seen her do cause I’ve been here for 12 years so I’ve gotten to see all these, but it is by far my favorite piece she’s ever created I think it’s because it did have the ballet aspect to it,” Turner said. “We have really shook up kind of the content this year, so seeing something that we hadn’t seen before really really made me happy but there’s something about ballet and then mixing it with contemporary.” 

The performance program can be found on the College of Fine Arts website

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