Student choreography shines at Geneseo Dance Ensemble fall revue

Art is fluid across all aspects of life; at least, that’s what the Geneseo Dance Ensemble conveys in its upcoming concert “46Live: Songs of the Body.” In celebration of its 46th anniversary, the ensemble expresses emotion, music and artwork along with choreography by students of the Dance Studies Program.

Professor of dance Jonette Lancos serves as artistic director, curator and producer of the performance as well as mentor of student choreographers in the development of their pieces.

“Each [student] digitally records each rehearsal,” Lancos said. “We discuss how to successfully communicate their concept through original movement material and knowledge of the craft of choreography.”

In addition to Lancos’ consultation, two outside dance educators and assistant professor of dance studies Mark Broomfield ‘94 advised student choreographers on their works.

After much preparation, the performance brilliantly illustrates emotional expression and the students’ affinity for dance.

“Heartstrings” by student assistant senior Stephanie Willmarth commences the performance, with dancers gracefully flowing in pale blue dresses. The women in this contemporary ballet piece happily leap and pirouette in accordance with the levity of the music.

By a sharp exhale, the dimmed stage lights are awakened with the beginning of senior Erin Girard’s “Out of Many, One.” Throughout the piece, dancers embrace the power of namaste, a yogi principle that acknowledges the common energy within all of us. The dancers even seem to breathe together, as they often collectively gather and separate on stage. Speed and energy dramatically increase in both the music and movements halfway through, as if to communicate namaste’s enduring importance throughout life’s many moods.

The next act “Hindsight,” choreographed by senior Jennifer Levy, has dancers adorned with translucent purple skirts. At one point, all performers exit but two, who then empower each other’s brusque movements to match the drama of the background piano. Soon, the rest of the dancers return, and all slowly approach the front of the stage as the lights fade out to end the piece.

Following that is “Illumination of Self,” which imparts the power of artistic expression across varying modes. In exhibiting their final projects, members of the Dance Composition class interpret design elements and principles present in paintings and translate them into dance. The choreography remarkably expresses the students’ interpretations of works such as Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and Georgia O’Keeffe’s “Deer Horns.” This piece is the only one in the concert conceptualized by Lancos.

Dancers of the next piece, senior Megan Killea’s “Filtering Light,” resemble a ballerina forest in their turquoise dresses. They act as elegant trees shedding scattered light onto the stage. As the piece progresses, light becomes more pronounced. The ladies conclude in joined stance, their unified figures receding with the lights.

In a bold switch of attitude, senior Ashley Palacios’ “She Is …” expresses feminine vigor by way of dauntless poise. The piece opens with the fierce beat of a brass band and silhouettes standing against a red backdrop. Performers execute high leaps, sassy shoulders and unapologetically confident circling of their hips. At times, the dancers strike vogue poses, all separate but in saucy concordance with one another.

The audience is then transported to a dream-like state induced by junior Michelle Graham’s “Talking in My Sleep.” Exemplifying a bad dream, the dancers adopt nightmarish motions. The music then becomes more ambient, prompting performers into peaceful pirouettes, kicks and somersaults. Viewers are not left sleepy but rather in trance.

Because the program, according to Lancos, was organized to build “in energy and choreographic diversity,” the final piece acts as a sendoff that unifies the entire concert. “Kwaherini,” choreographed by student assistant senior Emily Wagner, begins with a tune and mood similar to the first performance. Kwaherini roughly translating to “goodbye” in Swahili, the piece pairs energizing music with joyful cartwheels and jumps. The dancers’ enthusiasm, however, serves to effectively convey the true significance of the Swahili word, which means “go well.”

“46Live: Songs of the Body” motivates viewers to discover the emotionally unifying medium of dance. The concert runs Thursday Dec. 5 to Saturday Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday Dec. 8 at 2 p.m. in the Alice Austin Theatre. Tickets are $10 and available at the Student Association Ticket Office.