University Dancers’ spring performance to feature 9 new pieces

Published: February 14, 2013, 1:54 am ET
The University Dancers' 28th annual spring concert will feature nine original routines that students and choreographers have been working most of the school year.
Collegian Reporter

Student and professional choreographers have been working together most of this school year to produce nine original pieces for the University Dancers 28th annual spring performance, Shifting Ground: New Voices in Dance.

The dancers will perform at 7:30 p.m. on March 1 and 2 and at 2 p.m. on March 3.

“I think what’s really exciting is that there’s a great sense of creativity in the department, and especially in this concert,” said Anne Van Gelder, assistant director of dance. This year’s concert features all new work. …so our students got to be a part of the creative process with a lot of different choreographers.”

Seventeen dancers worked together to each create one of the nine pieces, Van Gelder said. And two senior dancers, Natalie Perkins and Brianna Leporace, were chosen by a faculty panel to choreograph and cast their own pieces.

Like most of the other pieces, Perkins’ “Looking for the Light” is a modern dance with a serious tone, she said. Her contemporary ballet features four dancers, each representing a different internal struggle, Perkins said.

Leporace’s grandfather, who died of cancer, inspired her to choreograph “Sempre Avanti,” which means “Always Forward” in Italian, she said. The dance features one male and one female dancer who represent the relationship between a patient and his caregiver. Leporace said that, although the piece was personal, she hoped that everyone could relate.

Leporace is also dancing in a solo choreographed by Van Gelder. The piece is based on Mil Norman-Risch’s memoir, “The Day My Son Died,” Van Gelder said.

Alicia Diaz, assistant professor of dance, choreographed a piece, as well.

Van Gelder invited four guest choreographers to create the remaining pieces: Kanji Segawa from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; Alexandra Damiani, from the Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet; Christian Von Howard, from the Ailey School and Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Dance and Choreography; and Diane Coburn Bruning.

Three of these guest choreographers came to the university in October, each during separate weeks, to teach their pieces, Van Gelder said. The dancers stayed on campus to practice during fall break.

Although the dancers have been preparing all year, Perkins said that their practice had been more intense recently.

They continue to take technique classes for an hour and a half three days each week, which they have been doing all year, she said. After class, the dancers rehearse each piece in the theater. And because Sunday rehearsals started this past month, dancers now practice every day of the week, Perkins said.

Other students and faculty members are involved in the preparation process. Members of the production team attend every rehearsal, said junior Sean Harpal, one of four assistant stage managers. These students prepare the stage to prevent injury to the dancers and take notes for the choreographers, so that the professionals can focus on rehearsal, he said.

The choreographers continue to collaborate with the costume and lighting designers, as well. Costume designer Johann Stegmeir said that he had challenged the choreographers’ ideas in order to create costumes that were meaningful, rather than purely decorative. By discussing lighting, color, fabric and texture, Van Gelder said that she and the production staff had hoped to create a different world for each piece.

Contact reporter Jamie Edelen at

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