The Collegian
Sunday, June 04, 2023

UR dancers stage an eclectic and high-energy show in Leap

The University Dancers will present a diverse mix of dances and storytelling during "Leap," their 23rd annual spring concert, to be performed from Feb. 28 through March 2 in the Alice Jepson Theatre.

The show includes a combination of dancing, music, lights and digital technology. The work that is expressed during "Leap" is a combined effort from the 17 members of the dance troupe, faculty members, alumni and internationally known dancers and choreographers.

"The concert is very different, quick moving and very eclectic," said Myra Daleng, director of dance and director of the spring concert. "Things will change, and you'll see something different [throughout the show]."

Several of the pieces presented during "Leap" were created in repertoire classes, during which students were able to collaborate with Daleng and Anne Van Gelder, assistant director of the concert.

"Students spend a lot of time choreographing, looking at the pieces, and the class allows for more creativity," Van Gelder said.

Junior Rachel Chikowski, senior Jason Tseng and sophomore Morgan Vargo each choreographed a piece that will be shown during the spring concert. The entire troupe collaborated on the show's final piece.

Students who choreograph their own pieces have total control over costumes, lighting and design. Daleng and Van Gelder said they try to maintain a distance from the students' creative work and consult only if necessary.

The work that goes into making a spring concert for the University Dancers begins in August. Auditions are held each year during the first week of school, and the planning and rehearsals begin soon thereafter. Dancers train in ballet, modern dance and jazz technical classes during the fall. Senior troupe captain Sarah Beth Dunaway said she spends about 20 hours per week working with the University Dancers.

"We dance every day of the week, except some Fridays," sophomore Audrey Innella said. "We're in the theater most of the time every day."

But all of the hard work should pay off during the last week of February. The title of the concert, "Leap," was decided by the troupe to signify the performance occurring during the Leap Year. But the dates alone are not the only reasons why "Leap" is a fitting title.

"The title aptly would give anyone a clue at what experience they might have," Van Gelder said. "It will challenge the viewer and take a leap and explore other ways to communicate."

"Pandora's Box" is a 20-minute piece choreographed by Daleng that will feature many different aspects of dancing, lights, music and technology that will challenge the audience. The piece is built in sections and follows a storyline.

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Another piece that adds to the mix of the show is an authentic Balinese dance, performed by seniors Mallory Moats and Tseng. It was created by last semester's artist-in-residence Gusti Putu Sudarta and will be accompanied by live Gamelan music.

Robert Battle, the artistic director and choreographer for international dance company Battleworks; Susan Shields, an assistant professor of dance at George Mason University; James Fraizer, the chairman of the department of choreography and dance at Virginia Commonwealth University; and alumni Tiffani Harris also choreographed pieces that will be featured during the spring concert.

Last year, the spring concert was a sold-out event, and the University Dancers say they hope the same will happen this year.

Daleng said the community turns out for this event and inner city students are bused in to enjoy a matinee performance. Daleng said she hoped Richmond students would come out for the show, which she said was a great value.

"This [show] is one I recommend highly," Daleng said. "It's so eclectic and high energy. This has the range from A to Z in dance and style."

The show is performed by Richmond students, but it is also completely run by a student crew. The concert is held at a professional level by the University Dancers, and they said they hoped the Richmond community sees that as well.

The show runs from Feb. 28 to March 1 at 7:30 p.m., and on March 2 at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $15 for adults, $12 for senior citizens and Richmond employees and alumni, $10 for students and $6 for children.

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