‘DANCEWORKS’ returns to the Greenberg Theatre after two years of virtual performances
For the first time since 2019, AUDC came together in-person for their annual spring dance concert
When the curtain went up for DANCEWORKS 2022 earlier this April, it was the first time the AU Dance Company performed their spring dance concert in-person since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. The show, which ran April 8-9, featured four pieces, each distinct in their style and choreography.
Under the artistic direction of Britta Joy Peterson, AUDC featured dancers from all schools across American University. Dancers rehearsed throughout the semester in collaboration with one another, as well as their choreographers.
For the past several years, the company has been challenged with adapting their performance methods to a virtual format. Many would dance in their apartments, outdoors or even at D.C. landmarks, producing virtual versions of the production. This past year, they were finally able to return to the studio in Katzen.
In her program note to the audience, Peterson wrote, “We welcome the embrace of the theatre, but most importantly — you, all in our live, in-person audience.”
Ronya-Lee Anderson’s piece “Woman’s Work” opened the show, exploring gender, feminism and identity. Dancers began wearing suits and boxing gloves, performing grounded movement in a rhythmic, fighting-like style. Throughout the piece, dancers emerged one by one shifting into wearing red and pink dresses; a contrast was evident between the fluid movements of those in dresses against those still in the boxing gloves.
Second-year students Allison Grant and Jalynn Gerard took the stage next in “Suture,” choreographed by Peterson. The use of lighting was a memorable aspect of the piece, as the two dancers moved separately and together within the space. At times, their movements mirrored each other in various directions with the lighting changing accordingly. Both Grant and Gerard have previously performed in DANCEWORKS.
“Resonant Bodies” by Erin Foreman-Murray, a contemporary dance artist and the Director of Dance for American University, was performed next. Unique to this piece was the live music, performed by cellist Nancy Jo Snider and electroacoustic artist Antonio Forte. Dancers explored their bodies in space through the use of floorwork and levels, while also wearing various textured costumes.
Sophomore Emma Sack performed in “Resonant Bodies,” and said the rehearsal process was very unique. Dancers had a base phrase of choreography from Foreman-Murray, but were asked to interpret and change the phrase as they moved through the live music.
“It was more individual in terms of the actual movement,” Sack said. “The things that were influencing our movement came from group energy being built up, and our proximity to one another.”
Sack said she enjoyed this process, as it was unlike any of her previous dance experiences.
“I think it really strengthened my ability to improvise within dance,” Sack said. “We were trying to react to the music and the music was reacting to us, and we were also reacting to the group.”
The final piece of the show, “Belongings,” was choreographed and directed by Filipino-American guest choreographer Bennyroyce Royon. “Belongings” used vintage luggage, Filipino-American music and contemporary ballet to explore identity. Dancers sang, hummed and used various levels in their dancing to explore their own journeys of identity. Many dancers began wearing heels and ended the piece barefoot, with shoes being used as tools of expression.
The performance concluded with a post-show conversation, where audience members were able to ask questions of the artists and choreographers. Listeners learned about the choreographic process and work that went into the nights’ performance.
According to Sack, AUDC dancers were thrilled to be back on stage this month.
“It felt really rewarding for everybody,” Sack said. “Dancing with these people has made me feel a part of a community and more connected to the school, the people I’m dancing with and my choreographers.”