Two students from Virginia will share the spotlight during Sweet Briar College’s Senior Dance Concert, “Blurs,” at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, and Saturday, Feb. 23, in the Upper Dance Studio in Babcock Fine Arts Center.
In their culminating performances as dance majors, Lynchburg native Jessica Murphy and Sarah Fletcher, from Virginia Beach, will be joined by 14 other Sweet Briar students. Each senior has choreographed a solo, a small group piece and a large ensemble dance.
Murphy, who also majors in liberal studies, says all the choreographies were inspired by their own experiences. As indicated by the concert’s title, the pieces are an artistic interpretation of real life in which “the lines between reality and fantasy have been blurred,” she added.
“My solo is all about the next transition in my life from learning to doing,” Murphy said. Her small group piece, ‘Dark Whispers,’ deals with the destruction caused by rumors, which are represented by a scarlet-red scarf.
Her large group piece unites all of the various threads from her life in a “dance autobiography” and includes the entire cast.
“[It] is all about my past, present, and future and how each of these … have made me who I am,” she explained.
Murphy will also show a video of a dance she performed during her sophomore year, in which she presented the theme of “relinquishing childhood” along with a young Lynchburg dancer whom she used to babysit.
Murphy herself has been dancing since she was 4 years old, starting out at Forest Dance Academy, where she took classes in ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, modern, pointe, hip hop, musical theater and acrobatics.
“Growing up I had a lot of people tell me dance was not one of those realistic dreams to have, and so of course that made me want to pursue it even more to prove them wrong,” she said.
But along with it, she’s following another interest.
“I always knew I wanted to dance, but it was not until recently that I discovered my passion for teaching,” she said. “I see how much of an impact teachers can have on their students. Just having that one teacher tell a student her dreams are possible can make all the difference, so I decided I did not just need to pursue my own dreams but I needed to go back and help others to do the same.”
In the past four years, Murphy has had plenty of opportunity to try her hand at teaching. In addition to working as a Zumba instructor at the Jamerson YMCA in Lynchburg and at Sweet Briar, Murphy teaches children’s dance classes in the College’s after-school dance program and at Central Virginia Ballet, a studio owned by Sweet Briar ballet instructor Mari Mori. She also assists with the choreography for local talent show dances and school plays. Currently, Murphy is helping Amherst Middle School with the waltz scene in their production of “Cinderella.”
“All of these experiences have confirmed my love for teaching, and I cannot wait to settle down and pursue it,” she said.
But before she can ‘talk the talk,’ Murphy say’s she’ll have to ‘walk the walk.’
“I need to accomplish my dreams of dancing first so that I can prove to my students that it’s possible just like [Sweet Briar dance professors] Mark and Ella Magruder have shown me.”
After completing her M.A.T. at Sweet Briar in 2014, Murphy plans to pursue an M.F.A. in dance performance or choreography.
“My goal is to dance [and] choreograph professionally for a while and then teach dance at the college level,” she explained.
While at Sweet Briar, Murphy has caught several glimpses of what life as a professional dancer might be like. She choreographed and performed a solo piece at the Mid Atlantic Region’s American College Dance Festival when she was a sophomore and traveled with the Magruders to Taipei, Taiwan, for two weeks last summer to attend the 2012 Child international (daCi) Conference, where Murphy met dance educators and students from all over the world. Along with Fletcher, she also stayed in Italy for a month, where the two dance majors studied modern dance with members from Jose Limon’s company.
Fletcher, who is graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance and studio art, has experience in all forms of dance, as well, including ballet, modern, tap, jazz and lyrical. A cheerleader throughout high school, she has trained and performed with various companies, such as Wallace Dance Company and Denise Wall’s Dance Energy, since she was 3.
Unlike Murphy, Fletcher is keeping most of her dances a secret, but revealed that her large group piece would be a mixture of modern and ballet, with some dancers on pointe.
Its theme is “overcoming bullies,” she explained. Her smaller group piece will be a surprise. “But I can say that it will be a fun and upbeat dance to watch.”
While the concert is just weeks away, Murphy and Fletcher aren’t quite finished with all of the choreography yet.
“We are in the midst of preparing an opener and finale,” Murphy said. “We are thinking the opener will be very “Chorus Line”-inspired and the finale something more Broadway-esque.”
They will also perform a duet that was choreographed for them two years ago by Samantha Angus ’05, the first Sweet Briar dance major to graduate with a B.F.A.
Admission is free and seating is open. Shoes must be removed before entering the studio. For more information, contact Mark Magruder at (434) 381-6150 or [email protected].