This pandemic year, the Winter Dance Concert steps away from past formats and pivots to a new one: film.
Since fall term, faculty and students in the Dance Program have been busy creating, filming and editing dance pieces, even in the snow across campus.
“We have treated the campus grounds as our stage. Dancers have been on the move, exploring diverse movement languages and their surroundings,” said Dance Program Director Miryam Moutillet.
The films – 12 in all – will be projected on the outside wall of the Taylor Music Center March 12 and 13, at 8 and 9 p.m. each night.
Audiences will view them from the arts quad, the gathering space behind the music center, the Henle Dance Pavilion, Yulman Theater, Feigenbaum Center for the Visual Arts and Jackson’s Garden. The event is free and will accommodate 50 people.
“Since the beginning of the term, we have been rehearsing and filming with care and safety in mind,” Moutillet said. “You probably have seen our dance students swaying through space, or heard the crunching snow, counting and music – socially distanced, of course.”
Aptly titled “Resilience,” the Winter Dance Concert features a cast of 30 dancers in a range of original solos and ensembles. Recurring themes of isolation, separation, uncertainty – and also faith in a better future – mirror the emotions and preoccupations of COVID-19.
“Times like these really remind me of how important art is for the soul, and I am so grateful I had the opportunity to participate in this rite of passage for Union dance minors," said Catherine Rayhill ’21.
Rayhill is one of six seniors, all dance minors, who have contributed a piece. “While there were some challenges to overcome in terms of choreography, there were also aspects of videography that allowed for different elements of creativity,” said Alexandra Merrill ’21, noting that she cherished her moments in the dance studio.
Other dance minors who are graduating seniors include Isabella Demyan, Emma Kelly, Alex Kucinski and Sarah White.
Moutillet and professor of French Charles Batson, who co-teach a course in Staging Explorations, have created two pieces. They tackle the restlessness of the present day in “To the Cold,” which depicts students emerging as lively survivors.
Their physical theater piece, “Now,” encapsulates in movement and spoken word this quote by Nigerian poet Ben Okri: “The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and be greater than our suffering.”
Dance Program Assistant Director Laurie Zabele Cawley choreographed two pieces, including one for 22 dancers that explores their individual and collective pandemic journeys.
Behind the scenes, theater faculty, guest editors Ryota Matsue and Jessalyn Meehan as well as students contributed with the Winter Dance Concert’s non-dance aspects.
It’s clear that long after the event has passed, the hard work and dedication to keeping this dance tradition alive and relevant will continue to resonate.
“Participating in the Winter Dance Concert has allowed me to have a creative outlet and continue one of my passions during these difficult times,” said Kucinski. “Although it is not like years past, I have enjoyed every second.”
Note: This event will be presented in accordance with the New York state Covid-19 guidelines. No seating will be provided.