Dance Company presents fall show that explores themes of nature, loss, emotion

W&L’s Repertory Dance Company features student choreographed work in“Dancers Create”

Sutton Travis

Flickering lighters, moving closer and closer. Video projections of crowds. A live vocal performance. From your seat in the audience, you have no idea what you might see or feel next. And that’s exactly the point of Dancers Create.

The Washington and Lee Repertory Dance Company presented their annual fall concert, Dancers Create, this weekend. The show was choreographed entirely by sophomore, junior and senior students.

Dance Company Director Jenefer Davies emphasized the value of supporting student work.

“Creating a work of art is something greater than ourselves,” Davies said. “It pulls in aspects of design, abstract concepts of time and space and requires the student to not only create something from nothing but engage in peer to peer teaching, learn to express verbally ideas that are abstract, discuss ideas with a precise vocabulary suited to the art form and deal with issues of timeliness, organization and deadlines.”

The company held auditions during the first week of school, then began rehearsing immediately after the pieces were cast. As a first- year company member, Bria Kelly, ‘20, said she was most surprised by how supportive everyone was of their fellow dancers.

“The commitment and the love that everybody has for [dance] is really evident,” Kelly said. “There’s less of a competitive nature. We’re all just cheering for each other, which is really cool.”

The show featured 12 pieces, all with distinct choreography and inspirations. A contemporary ballet dance expressed a love for marine biology, while another piece incorporated a Native American poem as a lens for viewing nature. Still other pieces explored themes of loss, conflicting emotions and dependency.

For Dance Company co-president Elliot Emadian, ‘17, this was his fourth and final year to choreograph. He set two pieces for the show, drawing inspiration from his summer experience at the American Dance Festival.

One of Emadian’s pieces, “Silence is Attrition / The Rainbow Cold War,” focused on the pressure a person feels to shield parts of his or her identity.

“I wanted to tell a story of something that I think a lot of people relate to,” Emadian said. “That piece is a very personal tale for me, but I tried to expand it into a sort of universal experience.”

In fact, one of the goals of Dancers Create is to encourage conversations about dance and the universal concepts that it can express.

“I think that the arts prompt really broad and different types of conversations,” Emadian said. “It’s another way of exposing yourself to the human experience.”

Members of wluLex, the university’s social media team, helped to spark these conversations by setting up a large screen onstage. At several points before, during and after the show, audience members were encouraged to post on social media using the hashtag #wludance. WluLex moderators then chose questions and comments about the performance to appear on the screen.

As a member of wluLex himself, Emadian was very supportive of the relationship this interaction created between the audience and the dancers and choreographers.

“It’s cool to give people that backstage insight,” Emadian said. “People come and see an hour and a half show, but they don’t realize the eight weeks in advance of that show that went into making the dances.”

Davies was also a proponent of encouraging the audience to actively engage with and think about the pieces. She said, especially in light of recent events, it is important for everyone to remember that “art has the power to heal.”

“[Artists] are expressing the human condition, engaging in new dialogues through their art form and pushing society to look at itself and to reassess,” Davies said. “I think that in these turbulent times, it’s wise to look to artists.”