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Students from the School of Dance, rehearse Transit, the first of six pieces for their winter concert in Templeton Blackburn Memorial Auditorium, Feb. 15, 2024. Additional credits: Title of Piece: Transit; Choreographer: Ali Woerner, Take Root Founder and Artistic Director; Lighting Designer, John Bohuslawsky.

Dance students fascinate audience with winter dance concert

Over the weekend, the Ohio University School of Dance students performed six mesmerizing pieces in the annual winter dance concert. With this concert, dance majors brought to life the visions of select faculty and guest artists, showing off their precise technique and storytelling skills to the Athens community.

The winter dance concert is the only yearly performance that showcases faculty choreography, with several other concerts each semester featuring all student-made work. The dance curriculum focuses on creating working professionals, and a big part of that is being able to choreograph.

This year, the concert was performed last weekend, Feb. 16 and 17, at 7:30 p.m. in the Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium. Tickets were $18, or free with student ID.

“Our seniors do two concerts a year, one a semester, that’s completely choreographed and produced by the seniors,” said Christi Camper-Moore, an assistant professor of dance and the head of arts administration. “We also have the junior BFAs do a junior project showing concert.” 

Camper-Moore is heavily involved in this concert every year as a choreographer, co-producer and co-director of the show. She was one of five faculty involved in the audition process for this concert, where choreographers picked the dancers they best saw fit for their visions.

“Most of us have an idea of something we’re thinking about,” Camper-Moore said. “It could be really not specific in terms of a piece idea, but maybe it’s a movement quality like I want to see quickness or I want to see a lot of floor work or I want someone who can improvise really well; the auditions are really a chance to test out what those ideas might look like.”

Following the audition process in September, the dancers chose, learned and rehearsed the pieces until the concert in February. Each choreographer had a different schedule; two of the pieces were set by guest artists, where outside professionals choreographed on the dancers for hours at a time and finished the piece within a week. 

Anthony Alterio is an assistant professor of instruction in musical theater and dance and he choreographed a 15-minute dance titled “Factory Reset” for the concert. This was the longest piece in the show, demanding hours of preparation for the 13 performers.

“We started rehearsals in the end of September and we rehearsed every Monday for two hours up until Winter Break,” Alterio said. “When we came back from Winter Break, we rehearsed for three hours every Monday, so they’ve put in a lot of time.”

On Friday and Saturday night, the dancers finally got to show off their hours of hard work on the MemAud stage.

The first piece, “Transit,” featured six performers portraying intense emotions on a stage filled with crumpled-up paper. This dance is an original repertory work of Take Root, a Detroit-based modern company, and was staged by guest artist Ali Woerner, the artistic director of Take Root. 

The second piece, “Umber Glow” showcased dancers transforming from creature to human, decomposing while simultaneously joining together. This was choreographed by dance instructor Katherine G. Moore.

Next was Anthony Alterio’s “Factory Reset,” a powerful dance with constant movement, bringing awareness to Appalacion union labor laws through a queer lens. Alterio took risks with his choreography, with elements of improvisation throughout and one performer walking on a treadmill the whole time.

“I love putting mess and failure within my work, and basically what happens is every time you see the piece, it's never seen the same,” Alterio said. “There's elements that I build in that are meant to fail so that the dancers really have to be actively engaged in what they're doing.”

The fourth piece, “their hands, reaching,” was choreographed by guest artist ShaLeigh Comerford. It focuses on the desire to break the hive mentality while wanting to belong in a group, encouraging the dancers to be vulnerable and show the human elements of their dancing.

The fifth piece was Camper-Moore’s trio, “the willow’s branches.” The dancers embodied the strength and grace of the weeping willow, with a lot of partner work and connection.

“I really wanted to explore musicality, so what kind of emerged is playing with different shapes and movement and interactions that began to remind me of the weeping willow tree, and this idea of branches and our arms as an extension of that,” Camper-Moore said.

The last piece in the concert was “...To the Bone” by professor of dance Travis D. Gatling. This dance was an emotional portrayal of how people define beauty and defend their identities.

The concert was a huge success and spoke to the professionalism of the dancers. The process of making these pieces is started by the choreographer, but the performers work collaboratively with them to make the dance their own.

“Faculty work very collaboratively with dancers (and) most of our rehearsals generate a lot of improv,” Camper-Moore said. “It's not typically a faculty coming in and saying, do this movement this way on these counts, it's much more exploratory.”

The winter dance concert is an important time for students of dance, as they can use faculty guidelines to create a well-rounded story with a variety of emotions on stage. Madison Cather is a senior studying dance and environmental health studies and is passionate about storytelling as an aspect of dance. 

“Having the opportunity to have someone's vision and be the person who is able to portray that for them can be so daunting, but also so exciting,” Cather said. “I want to be able to get that vision out to the audience and I want it to speak to them.”


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