Taylor Corley, Campus Carrier arts & living editor
The Berry College Dance Troupe is kicking off this holiday season in Sisters Theatre with their show, “Holiday Wonders,” which features pieces choreographed by students and the company’s new lead and visiting assistant professor, Sara Pecina.
The show begins with three non-holiday pieces, choreographed by students in this semester’s choreography class. As part of their final project, students were required to create a five-minute solo for one of their peers from the class and a handful were chosen to be showcased in “Holiday Wonders.”
“The class worked on their solos for about a month,” Pecina said. “They would show me chunks, get feedback and then rework their piece. The three non-Christmas pieces from the choreography class are at the top of the show and then we transfer into all holiday.”
Audience members can expect to see performances to some of their favorite holiday tunes, but the show still consists of dances ranging in genre.
“We ended up having all jazz and contemporary pieces from the choreographers,” Pecina said. “The dances have different vibes, but they’re all within the holiday mood.”
Most of the holiday pieces come from experienced students who have been in Dance Troupe before. Following the show’s major theme of holiday joy, four student choreographers bring the reason for the season to life through the art of dance.
“I think dance is such a cool form of art because it can emote so much feeling,” Dance Troupe co-manager, Amanda Tomlinson said. “(Audience members) can expect to see a really fun show that reminds you of the joy and love felt throughout the season. We have some dances that are just about the joy and then there are a couple pieces that really bring us back to the reason we celebrate Christmas.”
Student choreographers had control over the artistic direction in which they wanted their piece to go, and although they were guided by choreographers with more professional experience, students were given the opportunity to tell their own story.
“I worked with the student choreographers in an advising manner, but everyone put their own flavor and style into it,” Pecina said. “Each choreographer has their own voice and their own intent, and each individual choreographer shaped their piece.”
The show is unique in the sense that there is an evident evolution of choreography.
“We start the show with young choreographers who are showcasing pretty much their first piece they’ve ever put on a stage, which is really cool,” Tomlinson said. “Then you have pieces from students who have been doing this for a few years and have a little more experience under their belt and a piece from our professor who just graduated with a masters in dance, and then the final piece is choreographed by a guest choreographer with years and years of experience.”
Choreography isn’t the only aspect of the show in which students have creative control. All of the managers and a majority of the technical crew are Berry students. The Dance Troupe also partnered with the Costume Design class who designed and made costumes for Pecina’s piece for a class project.
“In their class they study costuming for dance and this opportunity gives them the hands-on, real life version of that process,” Pecina said.
This is the first time Dance Troupe is using Sisters Theatre as a performance space. Sisters Theatre is a black box theatre, meaning instead of having an elevated stage with separation between the audience and the dancers, the stage consists of a level floor surrounded by plain black walls.
“It’s a wonderful space for us in that we have all of the lightning capacity that we need, and black box creates a more intimate setting for the audience and the dancers because they are physically closer together, which changes the way the audience sees the work,” Pecina said. “In a black box setting, dancers can literally reach out and touch the audience.”
Setting was an important element for choreographers to keep in mind as they created their pieces and incorporated movements and formations into their dances.
“As we choreographed dances throughout the semester, we had to remember that we’re going to be in a setting that’s different from what we’ve ever done before,” Tomlinson said. “It was a conscious thing. We didn’t want to be in the audience’s lap so keeping movements towards the back and making sure formations were not too complicated was important because we perform right in front of the audience’s face.”
The creation of “Holiday Wonders” has been a collaborative effort and several different departments have made production possible.
“I’ve seen the work that’s gone into it and everyone’s done a really great job,” Pecina said. “By everyone I mean the dancers, student choreographers, choreography class, tech students, costume class and anyone who is putting in late nights with us. I’m really excited for them to present their work to the community.”
The show is on Dec. 5 and Dec. 6 at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $3 for students and $6 for adults, and tickets are sold at the door.