The audience at the John Van Duzer Theatre were fortunate enough to witness a cacophony of kinetic expression in the form of HSU’s annual spring dance concert on April 15, this year titled “Divergence.”
Students of intermediate and advanced levels were given an opportunity to work in tandem with other students and alum choreographers. They chose music and themes to collaborate in the creation of 10 beautifully executed dances.
The performances were varied both thematically and visually, yet all seemed to perfectly complement each other. While some dances were more lighthearted and obviously purely for fun, other performances emphasized the many social issues we as college students and young people have, and may experience in our communities.
One of the more poignant pieces in the performance was titled “1 in 4. It’s been 5,” a dance deriving some inspiration from the recent #MeToo movement and personal experience, and was choreographed by HSU dance professor and choreographer Kyleigh Carlson.
Carlson derived much of the performance inspired by her own experiences, and wanted the piece to be as empowering as it was a reflection of the horrible abuse and oppression many women experience in their lives, particularly on college campuses.
“One in four women on every college campus has been sexually assaulted and it has been five years since my attack,” Carlson said, discussing her title choice for the piece. “I believe in dance as a tool for advocacy and as a healing art form. When combining both of these motivators, I believe it can create real change and that is what inspired me to create this work.”
The audience was initially confronted by the 12 female dancers walking in unison, illuminated by low-level stage lighting until they reached a spot so far downstage that they seemed nearly atop the front row of the audience.
They spent a good amount of time there just waiting and looking directly at audience members before delving into more movement. Even throughout their choreography, the dancers continually glared in synchronized confrontation toward the audience, forcing us to pay attention, to watch and to be cognizant of them.
It was intentional to cast solely female dancers as well, as Carlson wanted to reflect her own experiences and was reflective of them, yet still inclusive of every survivor and their own experiences.
“It was important to me that while I was creating this piece that it be reflective of my story, and yet give room to allow my dancers to grow and develop their stories and experiences too,” Carlson said. “We opened up to each other during our twice-a- week rehearsals and shared our experiences, creating a safe space and community. The bond was important for performing this piece together as a group of strong unified women on stage.”
Following “1 in 4. It’s been 5,” was a far more lighthearted piece with dance collective “The Dizzy Delightful Dazzling Dancers,” presenting “Friends on Fire,” a piece inspired by “inspiration itself,” according to choreographer Serena Mann, and all set to the iconic power bop “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor.
Dancers whizzed around stage in jazzercise-themed choreography, all while clad in outrageously fabulous multi-colored unitards and leotards.
After intermission, the audience was entertained by the amazing choreography and dance, both executed by HSU dance major, Austin Silavong. Both of Silavong’s pieces in “Divergence” were selected to represent HSU at the western conference of the American College Dance Association that occurred March 14-17 this year.
Silavong’s solo performance “Asunder” was inspired by the “forced conformity so many of us adhere to,” Silavong said, and he encouraged viewers to “break free” of these conformities.
In preparation for both “Divergence” and showcasing his two pieces in the western conference, Silavong had to extensively rehearse for nearly five hours a week with HSU dance professors and “Divergence” faculty advisor, Sharon Butcher.
“Dance is a discipline,” Silavong said. “Talent is always a bonus, but to really connect, you need to show up and practice.”