The Collegian
Sunday, July 12, 2020

University Dancers wear multiple hats in preparation for "Momentum"

<p>Each costume is handmade then organized into racks by dancer.</p>

Each costume is handmade then organized into racks by dancer.

Seven months. 20 dancers. 10 pieces. One show.

The University Dancers, Richmond’s in-house dance company, are performing in their 31st annual dance concert, “Momentum,” Friday, Feb. 26 through Sunday, Feb. 28.

“We feel like we’re ready and in a good place,” director Anne Van Gelder said. “What we need now are audiences. That’s where the dancers are, hungry for an audience.”

While the dancers have spent months learning choreography and perfecting technique for the show, the director, choreographers, costume designers and lighting designers have also been involved since day one. They have seen each of the pieces multiple times to help with the design process.

“They have an understanding of, let’s say, the arc of the piece, the emotional arc of the piece, the physical arc of the piece and that gives them information as to how they’re going to design costumes or lighting,” Van Gelder said.

It’s Heather Hogg’s job to turn those designs into costumes. Hogg, the assistant director of costume, said this was the costume shop’s biggest show of the year, building 50 to 60 costumes in just over a month.

“There’s just so many custom-made things in a short period of time,” Hogg said. “Everybody’s working in tandem to make it all happen.”

Heather Hogg, assistant director of costume, gets to work sewing a costume.

Even the dancers get involved in the costume shop, located in the basement of the Modlin Center for the Arts. As part of their lab requirement for the University Dancers course credit, students are required to spend time in the costume shop learning how to construct costumes. Hogg can use the extra hands.

“We don’t have a repertoire where we pull something back out and do it again,” Hogg said about the costume building process. “We’re academic, so we’re always doing something different. Always.”

While Hogg and her assistants have been sewing buttons, stitching hems and even hand-knitting for the past month, the lighting designers have been hanging lights and finalizing their visions. Meg Clark, a junior on Richmond’s Electrics Crew, had the opportunity to design the lighting for a piece.

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“Because it’s such a big show and the dancers work so hard on it, it’s nice for us to be able to contribute as well from our end,” Clark said.

With the long days and rehearsals leading up to the show, Clark has time to adjust to changes in choreography or fix the placement of the lights themselves. Her main goal is to highlight the dancers’ forms and movements while drawing attention to the correct part of the stage at the right time.

“I work a lot from color and then making sure the dancers are lit correctly, so that you can see enough of them,” Clark said. “It’s very different from theater in that you’re not so much needing to see their faces as you are their bodies.”

While lighting and costumes are key aspects of any production, there’s no dance show without choreography. “Momentum” features four pieces from faculty members, including Van Gelder, four pieces from guest choreographers and three student pieces. Junior Kylie McCormick will debut her modern piece for the first time on Friday. McCormick began developing the central theme for her piece this summer.

“What I started with over the summer is this idea of work/life balance and how it’s a big thing at U of R where people work, work, work all the time, and we don’t really have a lot of time to rest,” McCormick said

Though this is McCormick’s first time choreographing a piece for the concert, she’s not nervous about showcasing her work.

“When you’ve been onstage for a week, practicing with the lights and costumes and every other aspect of it without an audience, it can get draining because you become ready for someone to see it,” McCormick said. Friday is finally the fulfillment of what we've been working on for so long and what we've dedicated so much time to, she said.

“Momentum” opens Friday at 7:30 and has additional performances Saturday at 7:30 and Sunday at 2:00.

Contact reporter Caroline Utz at 

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