The Geneseo Dance Ensemble performed its final production of the 2014-15 academic year in a four-night showing Thursday Feb. 26–Sunday March 1 in the Alice Austin Theatre. Titled “47Live: Breaking New Ground,” the show featured choreography by assistant professor of dance studies professor Mark Broomfield, adjunct instructors of dance studies Jody DeLoria and Deborah Scodese French and professor of dance studies Jonette Lancos, as well as new choreography by guest artists Kiara Danielle Brown and Robin Dunn. Experimenting with styles of hip-hop, improvisation and theater, “Breaking New Ground” departed from several norms of previous GDE performances.
“There were a lot of unique things about this performance,” GDE member senior Megan Roberts said. “The diversity of dance styles was really evident—we had Robin Dunn’s hip-hop piece, ‘Beycollage,’ which was definitely a first for GDE and we also had Kiara Brown’s piece ‘Six Years, One Day,’ which was more of a theatrical, period piece, which we don’t usually do either.”
Perhaps the most significant deviation from the group’s past performances, however, was Lancos’ improvisational “Action Words.” The piece was filled with energy and comic relief as dancers rolled, skipped and jogged around stage in vibrant colors, creating a kaleidoscopic effect.
Conceived in the Dance 340: Studies in Dance: Improvisation course, the piece marked a first for GDE.
“We’ve never done an improvisational piece before,” student assistant director and performer senior Keriann Dengos said. “We worked on [‘Action Words’] in class for about a month and then performed it onstage, so everything was kind of structured, but at the same time we were making it up in the moment, so it was different every night.”
“The dance was minimally structured and based on improvisation techniques,” Roberts said. “For the most part, all of the movement that we were doing was completely on-the-spot. We just had to minimally set the routine for music and lighting.”
True to its title, “Breaking New Ground” was an exciting and forward-thinking collage of genres and themes. Rather than creating a single story arc for the program, directors focused on pushing their dancers’ limits in new ways.
“It was really cool to be able to break the stigma that GDE is all ballet, modern and jazz dance and show that we can branch out and do different things,” Roberts said.
Dengos also noted the evolving nature of the ensemble. “I think in the past few years [the performances] have gotten more diverse as we’ve brought in different guest artists,” she said.
Due to this inclusion of new guest choreography, the show also differed in its style of rehearsal. “Pieces like Kiara’s and Robin’s were set in an intensive, so the guest choreographers came in for four or five days and we would work with them for four or five hours each day, and learn the whole piece at once,” Roberts explained. “Whereas usually, we put together the choreography a little bit each rehearsal, and then eventually perfect it as a whole in the second semester.”
“Breaking New Ground” was an example of how GDE’s technical prowess shines through their ever-changing catalog of styles. From jazz to ballet, hip-hop to Broadway, the ensemble never fails to mesmerize audiences.