The Eastern University Dance Department has recently hosted its dance concert, “Before the Thaw,” on Feb. 1 and 2 in McInnis Auditorium. Although this concert featured dance students of all levels, it contained many solos and duets performed by the seniors.
The first set of dances were done to the music of Nina Simone, a singer and songwriter of the Civil Rights Movement. These songs were choreographed by guest choreographer, Michelle Jones Wurtz. The Pottstown Dance Theatre is where Michelle currently works, and on their website they state, “Michelle holds a BFA in Dance from the University of the Arts as well as an MPA in Non-profit Management from Strayer University. She studied with Barbara Sandanato who was trained by George Balanchine; Judith Jamison, former lead dancer of the Alvin Ailey Company and Milton Myers who was also a lead dancer at Ailey and now serves as head of the Contemporary Division of the world famous Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.
Michelle began her professional career during her junior year when she started dancing for Group Motion song. The songs “Feeling Good,” “Spell on You,” “Strange Fruit,” and “Down and Out,” were solo dances, showing the raw emotion and feeling behind Nina Simone’s music. The song “Strange Fruit” contained lyrics about the violence and the death that slaves faced in the South. Kelsey Patrick did a fantastic job of displaying the misery behind the song through her dance, involving movements of pain and falling to the ground. On the contrary, the song “Feeling Good” contained lyrics of happiness and freedom. Megan Schultz conveyed this joy through a more upbeat, cheerful dance.
The fifth Nina Simone song was “Sinner Man,” which a group of dancers did in black leotards and wrap skirts of different colors. This was to allude to the wrap skirts of the African culture that are often colorful, flowing and whimsical. This tribute to Nina Simone and the Civil Rights Movement was very fitting for Black History Month and gave the audience a look into African hardships, history and culture through dance and costume.
After the Nina Simone songs came the song “You Say” by Lauren Daigle. This is a powerful worship song that brings hope to the weak. The song is about how it is easy to feel down about oneself and feel inadequate. Although one feels like this, in God’s eyes, all of mankind is strong and loved. God makes each individual with a purpose, and each person is able to be important and strong if they believe in Him. This song is very encouraging and its meaning was enforced through Mikaela Lardarello and Laura Schoenhals’ duet dance. The last song of the concert was also faith-based. It was a song by Mandisa that focused on faithfulness in the midst of hardships. This song was danced by Emily Bronkema and Hannah Santiago.
Stephen Welsh, the director of Eastern’s dance and performance was also a guest choreographer for the excerpt from “Suite Aviation.” This duet dance featured Janet Pila Marini and faculty member Caroline Butcher. Stephen Welsh has been a choreographer in New York City and Philadelphia for decades. He has danced with and worked with numerous choreographers and has received the Rockefeller Foundation Grant, A PCA Grant, a Five-county Cultural Arts Grand and a Pew Foundation-founded audience development project. He also currently presents work at the American College Dance Festival and is a member of the Philly Fringe Fest professional repertory company.
The Dance Club was selling items during the intermission to fundraise for the annual American College Dance Association (ACDA) Conference. This is a yearly conference where colleges around the United States gather and have an opportunity to perform for an audience other than their own school. On the ACDA website they state, “The American College Dance Association’s primary focus is to support and promote the wealth of talent and creativity that is prominent throughout college and university dance departments.
ACDA’s sponsorship of regional conferences and the national dance festival provides the venue for students and faculty to engage in three days of performances, workshops, panels, and master classes taught by instructors from around the region and country. The conferences also provide the unique opportunity for students and faculty to have their dance works adjudicated by a panel of nationally recognized dance professionals in an open and constructive forum.” This is a very good opportunity for Eastern to show their hard work and talent for other colleges to see. This is a great opportunity and hopefully their fundraising is successful so that they can take advantage of this event.
Sources: ACDA, Pottstowndancetheatre.com