Minutes before watching her choreographed piece for the first time on stage, senior Cristina Peters whispered that she was nervous to a fellow University Dancer. Peters had just stepped off the stage from dancing herself, but would watch the next dance from the audience. 

Peters is one of two student choreographers to be featured in the University Dancers’ dance concert “Converge,” lining her work up next to veteran choreographers. Each year, the company performs approximately ten dances in the concert. Some are taught by awarded artists-in-residence, some by professors at the University of Richmond and some by students.

“Every year we’ve been in UD, we’ve been in a student-choreographed piece, so it’s kind of cool that now, it’s us,” senior Julia Marcellino said.

Marcellino is also showcasing her piece, "Familiar," in the performance. 

“You’re in a very vulnerable place, and you’re putting out a lot of what’s in your head, so that process in general has been really great, but also a little scary," Marcellino said. 

Marcellino, who majors in both rhetoric and communication studies as well as dance, choreographed the piece as a part of her senior capstone. Having her piece featured has been the culmination of her dance major, she said.

“We learned in rhetoric about how you can tailor what you’re going to say to basically the audience that you’re having,” Marcellino said. “I have spoken word in my piece and looked at applying different rhetorical texts to dance and how that would inspire movement.”

Peters, who majors in marketing and VMAP with a dance minor, said she had always wanted to choreograph. She started her piece, "Sonámbula," as an independent study. Peters included what she calls “chance elements,” or anything she cannot control, into the choreography, such as wind and feathers, to make it different each time it is performed.

“It adds a different dimension to it,” Peters said. “It has to do with the unrecognizable parts of dreams that seem really rational while you’re in the dream, and then when you wake up you realize they weren’t actually rational at all.”

In order to be chosen, each student had their piece adjudicated by a panel of judges, or people involved in the visual arts at UR. These judges looked at each student-choreographed piece and decided which dances complimented the pieces already in the show in terms of look and diversity of style, while still fitting with the theme of Converge. There were five student pieces in total, but Peters’s and Marcellino’s were the two chosen.

Anne Van Gelder, director of dance and the artistic director for UD, said the show had not only been choreographed onstage, but also behind-the-scenes. Nothing happens without the green light from Gracie Carleton, senior, who has been the stage manager of the show for the past three years, Van Gelder said.

“It’s so complicated that it’s like a puzzle, so you have to make everything fit together correctly, but when it does, it’s beautiful,” Carleton, a theater and English major, said. 

Carleton also worked with Peters and Marcellino to design lighting for their dances. 

“They’re doing great work, so I’m grateful that I get to contribute to that work and kind of make it my own as well," Carleton said. 

Despite the busy schedules of their peers and the high stress that comes with the many “firsts” of choreographing, both Peters and Marcellino said the other dancers had been supportive of the student works. Peters and Marcellino feel very lucky to be able to make their visions come to life, they said.

Van Gelder values her position of mentoring the student choreographers.

“It’s really rewarding and is one of the best things I do,” she said. “It’s seeing them grow and creating something for themselves and improving along the way.”

"Converge" will open as the 33rd annual dance concert at 7:30 p.m. on March 2. Following performances will be at 7:30 p.m. on March 3 and at 2 p.m. on March 4. At least one of the dances will later perform for adjudication at the American College Dance Association annual conference in March.

To purchase a ticket for the concert, go to the Modlin Center of the Arts website

Contact news writer Stacey Dec at stacey.dec@richmond.edu.

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