Students, faculty and staff worked together last weekend to present the University Dancers' 28th annual concert, Shifting Ground: New Voices in Dance, which they had been working on since the fall.

"It's amazing to see how everything comes together with the lights and the costumes," senior Brianna Leporace said. "It really is such a collaborative experience, so to see the end result on stage, and for me to perform, was definitely rewarding ... especially after all the hours of hard work, to perform and have people watching."

The show opened with eight dancers dressed in different colored tops underneath black cutout tank tops. They gathered on one side of the stage, breathing in unison as certain dancers randomly stepped out of the group, and others pulled them back in.

Side lighting highlighted the dancers' figures and created a more serious mood, Leporace said. The piece ended similarly to how it began, but with each of the 17 dancers on the opposite side of the stage.

"Toska," choreographed by the entire company, was the only one of nine pieces that featured all of the dancers.

Traditionally, the company piece includes a senior section, which Leporace said had made her emotional during the Sunday performance. This segment was the last time that all five seniors--dance captain Katie Branca, Natalie Perkins, Katie May, Darby Harris and Leporace--would perform together.

The finale, "Scorching Bay II," also provoked emotion from many of the seniors.

Dressed in navy, the dancers lay on the ground, forming two parallel lines around Leporace and Perkins. The show ended as Leporace ran around center stage until the lights dimmed.

Kanji Segawa, from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, choreographed "Scorching Bay II," Leporace's last Richmond performance, as well as her first solo in high school.

The company's student choreographers, Leporace and Perkins, bowed together, something they said they had been hoping to do since their freshman year. Each said that she had been brought to tears while watching the dancers perform their pieces, Leporace's "Sempre Avanti" and Perkins' "Looking for the Light."

"Backstage is a stressful place," Perkins said. "Everyone is really anxious and always doing last-minute touch ups to hair, makeup and costumes. Depending on the order of the pieces, some people had quick changes so it was more stressful for them. Backstage is also full of laughter. We're all so giddy, anxious and tired, but so excited all at the same time."

Rehearsals had become more intense during the weeks leading up to the first show Friday night, said Anne Van Gelder. Before that show, dancers performed an invitational dress rehearsal, as well as two matinees for younger students.

During these rehearsals, the crew worked on making backstage changes more efficient. Dressers pre-set outfits for dancers who did not have breaks in between pieces, and during intermission, the crew cleaned the stage to remove fake snow used in Christian von Howard's "Cedar."

During the first run-through, intermission took 35 minutes, but by opening night it took only 16 minutes, junior Heather Dunlap said. The production process was not easy, but the audience would never have had any idea, Dunlap said.

Dunlap is a member of the campus lighting crew called The Electrics. She also worked with Leporace to design the lighting for her piece.

Although they no longer be preparing for the concert, dancers will perform Leporace's and Perkins' pieces at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro during the American College Dance Festival.

Contact reporter Jamie Edelen at jamie.edelen@richmond.edu