At the end of every semester, the UNCG Dance Department performs a concert featuring dances they have been rehearsing and perfecting throughout the semester.
In the midst of end of the year activities, students came together on April 22 for an exciting performance featuring Spring Dances in the Dance Theater. Running throughout the weekend, the hour long program featured around forty student dancers.
Comprised of three dances, each number offered a completely different style,
mood and message.
The first number, titled ‘“West Side Story,’” was choreographed by Michael Job. “West Side Story” is a classic musical placing Romeo and Juliet in 1950s New York City gangs. Normally performed as an entire musical, this dance number was shortened down to the key parts of the story.
Lovers Tony and Maria come from two feuding factions, The Jets and the Sharks. Hating each other for no true reason, their rivalry defines the city. Although volatile, they cannot stop Tony and Maria from meeting; however, their romance is cut short when Tony is shot and killed by a Shark.
The Jets are a group of white men while the Sharks are a group of Puerto Ricans that are new to town. In the musical, the Jets are known to wear blue, white and yellow, while The Sharks wear deeper reds and blacks. During the performance, dancers from the two groups wore their corresponding colors.
The majority of the dance was comprised of the two groups gracefully fighting. In the moment where Tony and Maria first meet, the group’s’ swarmed around them, until they break free and catch each other’s eye; signifying love at first sight.
After this, Maria returned home with several of her friends. During this segment, they desperately try to teach Maria how to move her hips and dance. Maria then took center stage while the male members of the Sharks entered, so they could couple up for dramatic partner work.
Tony and Maria meet in secret, yet the fighting still continues behind them. Suddenly, a Shark pulls out a pocket knife and one of the Jets is tragically stabbed. In response, Tony leaves Maria and runs to his friend’s aid. And out of anger and retaliation, Tony stabs his friend’s murderer.
In the final portion of this performance, Tony and Maria find each other in the midst of all the chaos. The two groups circle around them, and Tony and Maria embrace until Tony is suddenly killed by a gunshot. Maria held him as he fell to the ground. This dramatic ending of Tony’s life then ends the feud between The Jets and The Sharks.
The next number dance performance was titled “The Fact of Being: In the Castle of My Skin,” and was a complete shift from “West Side Story.” Choreographed by Robin Gee, with contributions from the dancers, this number featured voiceovers of the dancers themselves. The music featured recordings of the dancers describing themselves by characteristic motifs such as, “I am, I fear, I believe in and I am proud of.” The concept behind this moving number was to study and identify what it is that gives us a sense of ourselves.
The number began in silence, led into the voiceovers, faded into a simple melody and then turned back to voiceover. The dancers moved in small groups, large groups and supportive partner work. This number had a genuine and heartfelt tone. The dancer’s’ responses made the experience even more relatable, personal and intimate.
After a short break, it was time for the final piece. As soon as the lights faded out, a siren blared and a spotlight focused on a dancer at the top of the stands. The terrifying announcement proclaimed the nation’s ‘purge night’ where all killing and crime was legal.
This dance, entitled “America is Great Again,” was the most intense performance of the show. Featuring more dancers than the previous dances, all performers wore black or grey with dark stage makeup.
With an eerie, monotonous and intense beat, the dancers ran on and off stage flashing protest signs. Each sign stood for a different movement: Black Lives Matter, Women’s Rights and LGBTQ Rights.
With several music shifts throughout the piece, each new song offered a new visual. Some parts of the number displayed the entire ensemble spinning, which created a chaotic but intriguing presence. Other times, there were smaller groups of dancers working together.
In the most dramatic portion of the dance, there was a soloist who displayed the act of being stabbed through dancing. All while an oblivious couple danced around her. The number then closed with a recording of children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
The dance performances, “West Side Story,” “The Fact of Being: In the Castle of My Skin”
and “America is Great Again,” were all uniquely choreographed and showcased different perspectives on what a dance can do, say or make people feel.