The stage is dark, the seated crowd murmuring lightly to themselves, and then it happens. The murmurs stop, replaced by the sound of a guitar lightly strumming. A single dancer takes the stage, the lights lifting, brightening, and then fully lit. The guitar begins to swell, building upon itself – and the dancer moves. She’s moving as if she’s realized something, each swing of her arm or step of her foot punctuated by the rise and swell of the music. Dancer and tune meet, fulfilled in and by one another – and she’s crying. Yet “those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy.” – Psalm 126:5
“The most full and whole version of me is me dancing,” senior dance major Lydia Adams explains. She’s sitting across from me in the Jammin’ Java, about to head over to the McInnis Auditorium to lay the floor for the senior dance concert, “Out with a Bang!” This past weekend, Adams performed her senior piece entitled “Tending the Garden” alongside of her fellow senior dance majors: Katie Green, Emilee Carey, Elky Fuentes, Rachel Travis, and Rachael Lyons.
Unbeknownst to me, there’s a special type of flooring the dancers need to lay on top of the existing flooring to ready for their performance. Adams would know of such a thing; the native of Johnstown, PA has been dancing since the age of five at “Johnstown Concert Ballet.” Dancing as a child, especially at such a young age, Adams admits, “It ended up taking over my life.” Adams has been in fourteen productions of the Nutcracker in Johnstown, seven of which had her appearing on the cast list. Yet dance never felt like an obligation to Adams. Her grandmother and mother both spent time dancing, and her older sister, Genevieve Morris, is an alumna of the Eastern Dance Department and now teaches dance at local elementary schools. Even her brother and dad were involved, supporting the family through consistent attendance at dance practice and recitals. “Dance became such a regular part of my family’s life. It was just the world that we were in,” Adams says with a shrug of her shoulders. With her family immersed in the art’s rich heritage, dance was always a part of Adams. “There was definitely a moment when I was like ‘Oh wait, this is who I am’…I couldn’t function without dance,” she says with a shrug, a grin slowly spreading across her face.
As a dancer with an older sister who danced at Eastern, Adams knew exactly where she wanted to go to college. Homeschooled, eleven year-old Adams was able to stay with her sister for a week at Eastern, attending dance classes, hanging with other college students, and traipsing around a campus fit for eighteen year-olds. Her professors now knew her then as Genevieve’s younger sister, the small girl with joy and expectation in her eyes — waiting to take the journey her sister took to Eastern.
When Adams came to Eastern as a freshman, this child-like ambition was tested. “I had to be pushed out of my comfort zone…I didn’t just get to be a ballerina anymore, I had to do things that I’d never done before,” Adams explains. If one had to characterize her four years here, the first year would be one of fear, where Adams was stretched as a person and as a dancer. “I was very much a wallflower, I very much didn’t want people to notice me,” she admits, yet she was noticed. Sophomore year, Adams was give the opportunity to choreograph a piece for one of the EU dance concerts, a chance she couldn’t pass up. Making a fist with her hand, she remembers, “I said ‘Okay Lydia, you need to do this.’ It was so out of character for me because Lydia would have never done that.” Yet just as freshman year filled Adams with apprehension, so too did junior year — “I was questioning who I was among all these other dancers.” And again, as sophomore year was an exultant expression of who she was as a dancer, so too is this year. Adams is more confident, saying “I’ve realized that I have important things to say, and I’m not hiding anymore.”
Where has she found inspiration for the various pieces she’s choreographed, especially her senior showcase? Adams explains, “I can’t just make dance to make dance, or choreograph for the sake of choreographing. It has to be rooted in where I am in life and in the things that I’ve experienced. It has to be a heart thing.”
And a heart thing it is. As the dancer moves across the stage for the final time, lifting her hands to the heavens, bringing them down, and looking at them intently, the auditorium is overcome with her sense of accomplishment, of growth, of fruition. Adams comments of her senior piece, “This weekend was a testament to my growth as a dancer and choreographer from freshman year to now.” What’s next for the dancer? A happy marriage, a warm cup of tea, and maybe even the stage.