The Collegian
Saturday, December 09, 2023

University Dancers present 35th annual concert

<p>Stills from the University Dancers' 35th Annual Concert are displayed outside the theater. The performance opened on Friday, Feb. 28, to a sold-out crowd in Modlin Center’s Alice Jepson Theater.&nbsp;</p>

Stills from the University Dancers' 35th Annual Concert are displayed outside the theater. The performance opened on Friday, Feb. 28, to a sold-out crowd in Modlin Center’s Alice Jepson Theater. 

Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct one factual error and remove one quote. 

The University Dancers (UD) performed on Friday to a sold-out crowd on the opening night of its 35th Annual Concert.

The performance took place in Modlin Center’s Alice Jepson Theater as part of the Tucker-Boatwright Festival of Literature & the Arts

UD is an auditioned student dance company founded in 1985 with 25 company members. It is supported by the UR’s department of theatre and dance. UD members commit between 20 and 25 hours of rehearsals per week, according to an email from Anne Van Gelder, UD's artistic director and UR's director of dance. 

On Friday, UD delivered a two-hour performance showcasing not only the company’s talent but its explosive creativity. 

The performance consisted of 11 dances that represented a variety of styles and choreographies by local university faculty members and other professionals, as well as students. 

Four pieces were choreographed by students: senior and company captain Madison Ernstes, junior Karen Fleming, senior Bella Long and junior Gianna Dowd.

Some of the other pieces were choreographed by resident choreographers Larry Keigwin, Camille A. Brown, Sean Aaron Carmon and Charlotte Boye-Christensen. 

These residences are supported in part by the Tucker-Boatwright Festival of Literature & the Arts. Ernstes said residents teach a dance to UD in a week or less during their visit, but members have to audition for the choreographer.

Boye-Christensen’s piece "CROSS/CURRENTS" was commissioned for the Tucker-Boatwright Festival of Literature & Arts. It premiered in November, combining professional dancers and UD members, as a site-specific piece in downtown Richmond. 

During Friday's show, the piece was performed by just UD. 

Ernstes spoke about the piece she choreographed titled "Systematic," which features six dancers. 

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“I presented my independent study at the concert last year and so this year is my second time presenting work through University Dancers,” Ernstes said on Tuesday. “I will say that it’s a very vulnerable position to be in. You feel like you’ve created this work that’s so representative of you and your style then you’re putting it out there. So it’s really scary but it’s always worth it.”

Fleming echoed a similar sentiment. Her piece is titled "From the Passage," which is inspired by her work with the Humanities Fellows Program and her research on migration novels. 

“It’s really humbling because you’re putting your artistic voice out there,” she said, “which as a dancer you see other people doing it all the time when they choreograph dances on you but to really be in that position yourself you’re like, ‘Wow, I’m actually doing this. I’m really putting myself out there.’”

Before Friday's performance, Ernstes said she hoped the audience would leave understanding more about who UD is as a group and what it stands for.

“Diversity is a huge thing, especially with the campus atmosphere this year," she said. "It’s always been really nice to walk into rehearsals and know that that’s a safe place for everyone.” 

Audience member and junior Tatum Polite said her favorite piece was "Caffeinated." 

“I like the variety and how each dance is really different, how beats go from fast to slow and how the tempos are really different. I like the juxtaposition of the pieces,” Polite said.

This year's concert earned a five-minute standing ovation for the company and crew.  

Performances continued throughout the weekend in Modlin. 

Contact lifestyle writer Isabel Meyer at

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