Spring Dance Concert at Sweet Briar promises emotional roller coaster

Sweet Briar dancers
Sweet Briar dancers in the air. Photo by Andrew Wilds

Sweet Briar’s 2018 Spring Dance Concert promises a captivating range of emotions displayed in solos and group dances by program faculty and students. Performances take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 13, and Saturday, April 14, in Murchison Lane Auditorium in the Babcock Fine Arts Center. The event is free and open to the public.

Known for his innovative choreographies, Professor of Dance Mark Magruder has crafted a piece called “Departures” that uses both movement and spoken-word elements. “It’s about the departures that happen in all our lives: parents die, wars start, students graduate and colleges [decide to] close,” he explains.” At times, he adds, his dance is athletic, while at other times it may be “bordering on the comic absurd.”

Performers include junior Taylor Jefferson and sophomores Olympia LeHota, Haylei Libran, Cassie Mills and Rachel Woods, as well as Magruder. The music, “Thread,” is composed by his son-in-law, the jazz musician and upright bass player Chris Dammann.

Magruder’s wife, Ella, also a dance professor at Sweet Briar, has choreographed a piece called “Too Close.”

“It is trio about power relationships — the uncomfortable decisions and actions between people who are in close proximity to one another,” she says. Woods, senior Rachel Rogers and LeHota will dance in it.

Haylei Libran
Haylei Libran. Photo by Andrew Wilds

Rogers also will perform a solo she premiered in her recent Senior Dance Concert. “This piece really expresses raw emotion of dealing with injuries,” Magruder observes. “The pain and the ability to overcome them is shown with great vulnerability and strength.”

As is tradition at Sweet Briar, students have choreographed the majority of dances in the concert. There is “Hexed,” a high-energy, fast-paced dance created by Libran, who will also perform a solo she has choreographed called “Cosmic.”

“Haylei is running on a higher octane than most people,” Magruder says. “Remember not to blink in this dance or you might miss something!”

Jefferson will perform in “Nothing But Dust,” a solo she has choreographed to piano music, while Woods has devised a large group piece for eight dancers titled “Coexist.” There are two groups, Magruder explains, each “trying to make it in a world where they cannot exist together. The conflict between the groups is apparent as the groups struggle to find a solution to their opposing ideas. They want to coexist, but can’t seem to right this idea until the end.”

LeHota’s quartet “Athena” is inspired by the Greek goddess Athena, goddess of wisdom, the arts and strategic warfare. “The dancers use all of these aspects as they perform this group piece with many climactic moments,” Magruder says.

LeHota will also perform a solo called “Waiting for Spring,” which “draws on the dream-like state of a much awaited spring,” according to Magruder.

The final student contribution comes from M.A.T. candidate Vanessa Finnegan ’17, who has created a solo called “The Taste, The Sound.” It’s an abstract piece that focuses on “overwhelming sensory experiences,” says Magruder, including the “pleasure and pain of feeling.”

For more information, email Magruder at mmagruder@sbc.edu.

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