GDE combines movement, spoken word for compelling spring showcase

In its 48th year of productions, the Geneseo Dance Ensemble celebrated cultural diversity in their performance of “48Live: New Vistas,” which ran from Thursday Feb. 25–Saturday Feb. 28 in the Alice Austin Theater. Under the direction of professor of theater and dance Jonette Lancos and assistant professor of theater and dance Mark Broomfield ’94—as well as guest artists Mariposa Fernández and Garth Fagan Dance company member Norwood Pennewell ’80—the students put on a moving and thought-provoking production. The performance opened with “First Flame”—a work created by spoken word artist Fernández—and was directly followed by “Journey into Space and Sounds.” These numbers, as well as “Self Disclosures,” “This Story Is Gonna Burn” and “Rebel Realness,” were created by Fernández and written and performed by senior Jenny Soudachanh, juniors Seung Kim, Nana Boakye, Elizabeth Boateng, Jawad Tazari and sophomore Skyler Susnick. In this interactive performance, each student spoke to the audience as adjunct lecturer in English Glenn McClure played instrumental music on a hand drum in rhythm with their speeches.

These students appeared between each major dance number to discuss their own personal issues and development involving self-acceptance in areas aof race, gender and sexuality. According to Broomfield, these students created the speeches with the help of Real World Geneseo—a program in which students are provided with an academic course, a four-day retreat and an opportunity to take part in a service-learning project. Fernández was at the retreat and spent a week on campus to help the students create the best product.

“[These] students have given their heart and soul,” Broomfield said. “The courage to share their stories in the way that they did without having the background [in performing] and to be sharing it in this platform ... on the stage.”

McClure played music during each speech as the students discussed challenging social conventions and discrimination through their personal stories through monologues.

The four main dance numbers were also incredibly compelling. “Jam Jive and Everything”—a 1920s-inspired dance choreographed by Broomfield—included tap dancing and women in flapper dresses dancing, twirling and jumping energetically. The number began with junior Tiphereth Hassan reciting Langston Hughes’ poem “Midnight Dancer” while Archibald Motley Jr.’s painting “Saturday Night” was projected behind the dancers.

Choreographed by lecturer in theater and dance Deborah Scodese-French, the graceful “Aegean Odyssey” was inspired by her travels to Turkey. Scodese-French strove to honor Turkey’s sea, land and people in the piece. The performance was elegant and engaging; the students interpretively danced while wearing bangles on their wrists to play with the rhythm of the song.

Lancos’ “Beyond the Horizon” was a beautiful and sophisticated ballet that aimed to appreciate and to recognize the diversity of other cultures. The dance ended with a single spotlight closing in on the dancers, as they ended in the same position they began in—bringing the performance full circle.

The night ended with “Rising”—choreographed by Pennewell—which began with a single dancer silhouetted by a bluely lit scrim, who was later joined by other dancers running in sporadic movements across the stage.

Lancos expressed pride in her dancers. “What I experienced was the amazing growth in the dancers,” she said. “And then the rehearsal on Sunday [Feb. 28] to tonight ... it’s just such a transformation. That’s why we do four performances, because that’s how you learn to perform—by performing.”

Broomfield emphasized his desire to see the audience emotionally and mentally stimulated by the performance. “[I hope the audience is able] to appreciate that dance and performance can come in many ways. It can challenge us, it can elevate us, it can inspire us, it can do many things,” he said. “And so that’s my hope—that it’s not just about beauty, it can also challenge us to see differently, think differently, feel differently.”

Broomfield’s hope seemed to come true, as GDE’s brilliant performance was an all-around special and commemorative performance of cultures and people everywhere.