December 4, 2020

Dance seniors choreograph ‘Thoughts’

Paige Walden, senior dance major, performs her interpretation of a Maori War Dance during ‘Thoughts,’ the 2012 fall 1 Bachelor of Fine Arts concert. Her solo piece was called ‘The Mandate,’ and was inspired by her father’s New Zealander heritage. PHOTO BY MEGAN FAVIGNANO.

Dance majors performed original choreography Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, Oct.4, 6-7 in “Thoughts,” the fall 1 Bachelor of Fine Arts concert. Paige Walden, Sam Mitchell, Ashley McQueen and Ashley Drumm displayed a compilation of duets, group dance and solos to showcase performances that reflect their individual creativity and talent.

Paige Walden

Paige Walden’s father, and his unique heritage, inspired her solo piece “The Mandate” was Walden’s ode to the Haka dance of the Maori people who reside in New Zealand on the Chatham Islands. She found inspiration from one of New Zealand’s top Maori contemporary dance companies.

“My father is from New Zealand,” Walden said. “I found the inspiration from The Atamira Dance Company. I saw one of their shows this summer and the choreographer explained that when he was a young child, his grandmother told him to make the Haka his own. I decided to make my own Haka to show my strength.”

Walden also choreographed a group piece with five dancers that displayed a different kind of performance. Walden said when dancers are on stage they take on a new persona, and for this performance she wanted them to be themselves.

“When you see dancers on stage, they become beings separate from the audience,” Walden said. “I had my dancers start the performance from the audience, therefore, they are still a part of those people.”

For her last performance of the night, Walden choreographed “Whirlpools Within His Rock Bed” with her boyfriend and Webster dance major, Marcus Johnson.

“I created the metaphor of him being my rock and I was the water that flowed around him,” Walden said.

Walden and Johnson have been in group pieces together before, but this was their first duet together on stage, Walden said.

“I wanted to be able to dance with him, so I took the last chance that I had to dance onstage with my boyfriend.”

Sam Mitchell 

Sam Mitchell came to Webster as a math major in 2009. It wasn’t until his second semester that he began his concert dance training. His dance experience started in high school where he did color guard and show choir. Mitchell knew he wanted to be a dance major when he performed with Webster at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in spring of 2010.

Mitchell said his pieces are narrative and they all share the underlying theme of time lapse.

“Questionable Beginnings” was a duet piece inspired by meeting new people. Mitchell said he found inspiration from early rehearsals with his dancers. He considered the strengths and weaknesses of the performers as well.

“I didn’t know what it was going to be about until I got into the studio with the dancers,” Mitchell said. “I put it together knowing their talents and it ended up turning into a relationship piece about the two of them.”

The quintet, “Dormant,” expressed the relationships between Mitchell and his family. Mitchell’s older brother composed the music for this dance.

“The family narrative piece has five characters, each representing one of my four older siblings and myself,” Mitchell said. “[The dance] uses our relationships, experiences and tensions. All of this inspired how I organized the dancers and who interacted with each other.”

Ashley McQueen

The dance department requires the choreographers to have something prepared on the first day of fall semester. McQueen spent about two months changing and preparing for her solo performance.

“Normally a choreographer wouldn’t have that long to work on a piece, so I was very lucky,” McQueen said.

As a transfer student, McQueen said she is grateful that Beckah Reed, chair of the dance department, gave her the opportunity to perform in the BFA performances.

McQueen’s point-shoe precision in the piece “A Dancer’s Right” comes from her strong background in ballet. Unfortunately, because of body type in the world of dance, she said she realized she could not work as a professional ballerina in the future.

“My piece went through a series of changes,” McQueen said. “Ultimately it is about me coming to terms with who I am as a dancer. I grew up classically trained and because of body type and other things, a ballerina just wasn’t where my path was taking me.”

On performance nights, McQueen painted her face and spread the colors all over her white tutu. McQueen said it was her embodiment of the saying “let your true colors shine.”

Ashley Drumm

A seasoned performer, Ashley Drumm has been dancing since she was 3 years old.

Drumm’s past insecurities influenced her duets; she said the piece displayed a time lapse that ends with a representation of her future self.

“The dance started with a younger me when I was a very negative person,” Drumm said. “The middle section is where I am right now, leaning towards the positive side and the ending represents where I want to end up.”

Her solo, entitled “Voices of a Man Made Disaster—Chernobyl,” was an interpretation of the 1986 Ukrainian power plant explosion.

“The first couple phrases (a dance phrase is a series of linked movements) represented the explosion, falling of buildings and the radiation that went out into the atmosphere,” Drumm said. “The next sections were about how the victims were affected by the explosion.”

The works of modern dance companies Pilobolus and MOMIX  inspired Drumm’s group piece and last performance of the night. Her piece incorporated the most dancers, with 10 people involved in the production. Pilobolus dancers use props to produce shadows and illusions. Drumm’s dancers performed behind a white sheet, using colored lights to create shadows. Drumm said ultimately, the dancers helped bring her choreography to life.

“I got a lot of inspiration from the dancers because they would play around behind the fabric without me knowing and I would see something I like and add it to the show,” Drumm said.

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