Spring Dance Concert showcases choreography by seven students and two alumnae

Spring Dance ConcertJoin us on April 15 and 16 at 7:30 p.m. for a virtual evening of student choreography and video dance. Each performance will be followed by a live Q&A with the choreographers. Register for this free event here.

Seven students and two alumnae choreographed pieces for the Spring Dance Concert, creating a diverse and collective performance. The participating students are Delaney Armenti ’24, Reesa Artz ’22, Catherine Ford ’21, Kayla Henderson ’24, Tamia Jackson ’21, Willow Litchford ’23 and Meenakshi Verma ’22. The alumnae choreographers are Vanessa Finnegan ’17 and Marisha Bourgeois ’99.

We caught up with a couple students to ask them about their work and what they love about dance.

Meenakshi Verma ’22

Tell us about the piece you choreographed.

I choreographed the group piece titled Féroce. Most of my choreography is based on how I am feeling at the moment or any strong emotions or events I have experienced in the past. I try to make it personal, or sometimes it can be very abstract. This piece is about bringing out the fierce in you. The title comes from French where fierce is féroce. It is about women empowerment and self-confidence; kind of like ‘ready to rule the world’ vibes. I am excited for all the other pieces by my fellow mates. They all have worked hard, and I cannot wait to see what they have come up with.

What is your favorite style of dance and why?

I am not a trained dancer. I came to Sweet Briar with zero experience. That being said, I started dancing at the age of two. I am a self taught dancer. Since I am from India, my roots are in Indian classical, and I have choreographed some Kathak and Bharatanatayam pieces back in India. However, I absolutely enjoy doing hip hop. Me and my best friend have an Instagram account dedicated to pop dance covers, @dm.dances_. I feel like I am the happiest when I am doing locking and popping or related dance forms.

What’s your favorite part about being involved in the dance concert? What do you think the audience will like about it?

I loved every single bit of the concert so far. From making choreography to rehearsals to filming and editing and the tech week. I really hope the audience appreciates our work and are encouraged to dance their hearts out as well. All of us have worked extremely hard to make this concert possible. We hope you enjoy watching it from the ease of your home. We will see you in person soon!

Reesa Artz ’22

Tell us about the piece you choreographed.

My solo is entitled Efflorescence, which means a state of flowering, growing and blossoming. I settled on this title because I like the idea that we are all on this journey of life — flowering and blossoming as we gain new experiences and learn more truths about ourselves. In this piece, I utilized a variety of indoor and outdoor locations around Sweet Briar’s beautiful campus, including the Babcock Art Gallery, the Dell and Upper Quad. As someone who finds much inspiration from my environment, using areas outside of the traditional dance studio setting was something I wanted to explore in my piece. I wanted to show that dance, and art as a whole, isn’t just found in conventional settings, but can, and should be explored in more unique avenues. When choosing songs for my pieces, I naturally gravitate towards more classical-sounding pieces, so this semester I also wanted to try a musical selection with something I have never tried before — one with lyrics. For me, when choreographing, I work best when creating authentic and explorative movements, then finding music afterward that I feel best fits my desired tone and message. The song I ended up selecting is entitled Exploration by Bruno Coulais, best known for being one of the title songs in the 2009 film Coraline. The relaxing, somewhat whimsical quality of the music stuck out to me, and I felt like it perfectly matched my solo as I explored around Sweet Briar through dance.

What is your favorite style of dance and why?

Growing up studying strictly classical ballet, and studying primarily modern and contemporary styles at college, I would have to say both take up a great place in my heart. Ballet has taught me the importance of general dance technique, progress over perfection, and musicality. While modern dance has shown me how to add emotion and passion when performing, as well as teach me that there is no one right way to be a dancer. Dancing at Sweet Briar, with Mark and Ella Magruder and Betty Skeen, has been monumental in my journey through dance, as they encouraged me to embrace both styles and combine them into something uniquely my own.

What’s your favorite part about being involved in the dance concert?

No matter what stage of my dancing career I have been at, I have always appreciated the community that being a part of a dance program provides. I enjoy being able to make new friendships and connections with students from different majors, hometowns and class years, while still being able to connect over our love to create movement. This past Fall Dance Concert, we only showed solo pieces. At that time, due to COVID-19, it wasn’t ideal to have upwards of eight people all dancing together, especially since many group works intrinsically lend themselves to close bodily contact between the dancers. This semester we were able to have small group pieces, something I was very thankful for. Having small groups allowed each choreographer and dancer the opportune time to delve into themselves and create works of art that are meaningful to them. Additionally, the hands-on aspect of creating the video dance provided the choreographers with an additional level of artistic control, letting them truly craft the audience experience to a T. Finally, I am incredibly grateful to have been able to work with such talented and inspiring individuals over my past three years in Sweet Briar’s dance department. Every student, whether a choreographer or dancer in this concert, consistently brings their style and message to every class and rehearsal that encourages me to step outside of my comfort zone.

What do you think the audience will like about it?

I think that the audience will most like how involved they get to be with the performance, as they are encouraged to stay after the concert for a live Q&A panel with the choreographers. While to some, the virtual concert format might seem limiting, I believe that it brought a unique aspect to the concert as a whole — the audience. Typically in most dance concerts, the audience doesn’t know much, if anything, about the dances they are watching. It is up to their imagination to decide what the piece means to them. But with this unique opportunity for the Q&A, the audience is able to get up close and personal. It brought the concert together full circle and acknowledged the importance of the audience.

This concert is also filled with a wide variety of pieces, ranging in styles, music, location, etc. There is truly something for everyone! Every piece is beautifully representative of each choreographer, and they all have put a monumental amount of effort into creating something authentically them.