Encounters visualizes common experiences

Audiences should expect to encounter some familiar experiences in visually powerful ways at the upcoming dance concert.

The Dec. 8-10 concert’s title “Encounters” embodies the theme many of the pieces have of artistically exploring encounters common to the human experience, according to dance and theatre department chair Karen Clemente.

“The performances are based on the encounters we experience in our daily lives: both the human and the divine,” she said.

Some choreographers chose to work from their own personal experience.

This has been the case for dance professor Stephen Welsh, whose piece “Near Miss” is inspired by Job, but also reflects his own encounter with debilitating pain from a foot injury that ended his professional dancing career last year.

“For me, the piece is very driving and intense, and as soon as it lets up, it just comes again,” he said. “It’s really an assault of the dancers’ senses and of the audience’s.”

Senior Josh Landis chose to do a very different piece entitled “Get Happy” simply because he enjoyed choreographing to the music of the father of modern jazz, Bob Fosse.

“We meet each other and celebrate each other,” he said.

Other pieces will include Clemente’s “Still, Small Voice,” which will use body movement to show that stillness is needed to hear God’s voice. Senior Kara Schmidt’s ballet, “My Sorrow (Expanded),” will explore Mary’s experience during Jesus’ passion week.

“It is an encounter with God’s promises and God’s purposes and what happens when He takes things away,” Schmidt said.

Senior Hannah Nolan’s piece explores what she sees as humanity’s three basic needs.

Through all the pieces, the dance department hopes to teach, uplift and challenge the audience, according to several sources.

The department also hopes to show off the artistic maturation and advancement it has made recently.

“Since we got the new dance floor, we’ve been able to advance our technique to that next level,” Schmidt said.

The concert this year will add a Friday night benefit performance. The proceeds from that concert will go toward supporting the master’s thesis work of dance professor Saleana Pettaway, who lost her husband to sickle cell anemia this semester.

Pettaway said she began her thesis last year as a tribute to her husband, to all sickle cell sufferers and to all chronically ill patients.

“My goal is not to say ‘Let’s focus on sickle cell,’ but I do want people to get a perspective on what is happening,” she said. “We have a lot of people who are ill, but they have a right to live the highest quality life they can live.”

The dance department wholeheartedly supports this goal.

“We all need this awareness that [sickle cell] is out there and is still taking lives,” Welsh said. “It’s real, and I’d love people to come to see us, and if that brings them in, so much the better.”

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