Human beings and the society we live in are not static. We are constantly moving and evolving. This idea of physical and societal movement is explored through dance in the University Dancers’ spring concert, IN/MOTION.

IN/MOTION is the 34th annual University Dancers concert featuring work from professional guest choreographers Francesca Harper, Robert Dekkers and Norbert De La Cruz III, as well as seven other works from University of Richmond’s own faculty members and students.

The motif of movement, in regard to the physical body as well as socially through time, helps tie the concert pieces together.

“Our lives are in motion,” Anne Norman Van Gelder, University Dancers’ artistic director and director of IN/MOTION said. “We don’t ever stay still where we are. We are constantly growing.”

Because the theme is so dynamic, there are many ways to access it for the show’s 10 choreographers, Van Gelder said.

Assistant professor of dance Alicia Díaz is using this theme to shed light on racial violence throughout our country’s history.

“I have done a lot of research on racial violence and specifically lynching,” Díaz said. “I am looking at honoring specifically women who were lynched in the South and making a historical continuation and thinking of the historical continuities to police brutality today.”

Díaz’s research inspired her to incorporate text, poetry, song and speech into her piece to emphasize the message being brought forth with her choreography. 

“The purpose of looking into this history is to engage today in action,” Diaz said. “This is not romanticized. This is activism.

“When we remember, we can act.” 

Junior Madison Ernstes is one of three student choreographers for IN/MOTION. Ernstes has been a member of UD for three years and, along with being a dancer in this year’s performance, she was given the opportunity to present her independent study in this year’s spring concert.

After conducting research in her independent study, Ernstes did not want to wait until her senior year to use it to create a piece for UD’s annual concert.

“I have been really interested in the way that people come together after tragedies, so the way society rebuilds itself,” Ernstes said. 

Although both of these pieces center on sensitive issues, they aim to leave the audience with a glimmer of hope, instead of defeat.

“One of the questions I am working with is how do you take this heavy subject and bring light to it?” Díaz said.

Another choreographer who is exploring the motif of physical movement in regard to the body through her work is senior Emily Limoncelli, one of the student choreographers presenting an independent study at IN/MOTION.

“It is an exploration of individuals in shared space,” Limoncelli said. “I have been thinking a lot about my own emotional complexity and confusion and how I either let outside factors influence me or not. It’s exploring what each of us allow to permeate our own mood and what we decide maybe another day, or never, will affect us.”

Senior Lauren Lambert is the third student choreographer for IN/MOTION. Like Ernstes and Limoncelli, Lambert has spent her entire college years in UD. She was inspired by past student choreographers when deciding to showcase her independent study in IN/MOTION.

“I had been in a few of my older friends’ student choreography projects, and I thought it was such an interesting process to see them serving in such a different role and see how much they can grow as a dancer themselves when they are given that challenge of choreographing,” Lambert said.

For her piece, Lambert has drawn on her work as a psychology major. The past few summers she has worked with children on the autism spectrum at The Faison Center. The beauty in the way these children view the world around them and how they articulate their thoughts served as the inspiration for her piece, she said.

“Seeing the way they respond to the world around them and take every moment for what it is I think can really reflect on society as a whole and finding the fascination and beauty of the now so we can flourish and create a community that respects each other for our differences rather than trying to force everyone into seeing it your way,” Lambert said.

IN/MOTION is a highly collaborative show. It involves the work of not only guest, faculty and student choreographers, but also of people serving in many other roles, not limited to, but including student lighting designers. The three student choreographers have been working with theater students to create the lighting design for each of their pieces. 

Senior Megan Wirtz is one of these student lighting designers. Wirtz has been working with Madison Ernstes to design lighting for her piece.

“She tells me what emotion she is aiming to evoke, and I do my best to use my lighting experience to help her convey that,” Wirtz said.  

IN/MOTION opens Friday, March 1, and tickets are free for students at the Modlin Center for the Arts Box Office. 

Contact contributor Holly Schiltz at holly.schiltz@richmond.edu.