The minute that members of Georgetown University Dance Company (GUDC) take their places for rehearsal; they are no longer students. An intense focus grips their gaze as they immediately command the energy and focus of the entire room. Whether two or 20 dancers share the floor, no space seems too large nor any movement too subtle. Performers and onlookers are rapt with the all-consuming power of dance.
On Feb. 21 and 22, GUDC will treat audiences to its Spring Concert in the Davis Performing Arts Center’s Gonda Theatre. The concert aims to showcase the months of work members of GUDC put into honing their craft. In addition to hours upon hours of rehearsals, the group also takes two classes a week purely to work on technique. “I think that overall it just makes us stronger dancers and keeps us moving on that pre-professional track, which is awesome,” dancer Courtney Smith (COL ’21) said.
Smith was abroad during the fall semester and managed to learn all of the choreography for the spring concert in a month. The ensemble consistently strives to polish, experiment, and innovate. Their upcoming show features a diverse array of styles and genres, choreographed by professional guest choreographers, students, and faculty. From ballet to jazz to contemporary, dancers display all of the talent and ideas they have to offer.
Choreographer Olivia Kleier’s (SFS ’22) piece, “Row of Houses,” starts with four students huddled together on the ground. Gradually, they rise and begin to push, pull, and lift each other, expanding and contracting with the melodic music. Abruptly, the piano and sweet voice stop as a rock-infused track takes over. Kleier uses different styles of dance to show contrast and evolution: Imbued with fresh swagger, the dancers begin strutting in line, even blowing a jaunty kiss at the mirror once they reach the front. Their movements become jerkier, with large lunges and spinning kicks as the floor bounces from the newfound impact.
Student choreographers also experiment with a variety of styles to showcase their creativity. Student Director Ethan Knecht (SFS ’20) choreographed “E-Words, or Joy in Four Parts.” The playful, jazzy piece aptly radiates positive energy. “I have a personal life philosophy that even when you’re having a bad day, you can always find a positive no matter what,” he said. “I find that a lot when I listen to this music, this music instantly cheers you up so I want to channel that through the dance.”
The number starts uniquely, with each dancer seated on folding chairs arranged in a line. Before the music even begins, the performers have created their own upbeat, chaotic cadence by drumming on the chairs’ metal frames. Once they rise, each dancer beams as they execute the shoulder rolls, sudden jumps, and tight side-steps of Knecht’s Fosse-esque choreography.
Another experimental standout is Christina Dropulic’s (COL ’22) “Fjaka!” The playful piece is set to an airy French song and celebrates family and community. Partners take turns sharing the stage and commanding attention, orbiting around each other. In a lighthearted touch, some dancers peer out from behind their partners, and, as the piece nears its end, salute the audience and the rest of the ensemble. Dropulic’s focus on partner work highlights human connection and relationships. She reimagines the general dynamic of an ensemble by presenting the audience with more intimate demonstrations.
The Spring Concert boldly takes on a more serious and complex tone as well, especially in pieces created by faculty and guest choreographers. The show begins with a number called “Lost and Finding,” which the ensemble worked on with their fall guest artist Tiffanie Carson, an assistant professor of dance at the Shenandoah Conservatory at Shenandoah University. The dancers begin hunched in a circle around one member of the ensemble standing straight up, and the group inhales and exhales around its center to a pulsating effect. Eventually, the formation grows apart, alluding to the image of a flower in bloom. This piece, like all of those to follow, expertly plays with different levels of elevation. Different groups within the number rise and fall—some spiral down, others resiliently ascend. Throughout the concert’s many numbers, the ensemble rarely acts in complete unison. Instead, dancers are given slight variations and mini solos, emphasizing that the group is cohesive but not monolithic.
Raina Lucas, GUDC’s faculty artistic director, also explores a combination of fragility and fluidity in her piece “The Container,” which starts off the show’s second act by immersing the audience in the visual dynamics of a life-sized music box. In an eerily beautiful display, one dancer slowly turns in the midst of frozen bodies locked in their poses. Eventually, beat-heavy music consumes the original sparse music box theme. Even as the pace of the piece picks up, the dancers remain graceful in their ballet-based movements. Their arms arc upward before they fan out in unified diagonal lunges, all while maintaining a sense of calculated grace. This seamless visual contrasts with the much harsher soundscape to fantastic effect, creating an engaging juxtaposition.
The concert closes with a piece choreographed by GUDC’s guest spring artist Stephanie Dorrycott, an artistic director at Motion X Dance DC, titled “Fate of Choice.” The number aims to examine questions of free will, destiny, and decision. In one of the most fascinating performances, dancers use arm isolations to create a pulsating visual texture. The piece does not have a moment of explosion like some of its predecessors, but rather slowly builds an enticing tension. Eventually, dancers soar overhead in lifts while others rapidly move across the stage in an elongated period of heightened momentum.
Once the show comes to a close, the students’ heavy breathing is the only sound that remains as the music fades out. Almost like coming out of a trance, the dancers become students once more, clutching water bottles and discussing logistics for the next weekend. The members of GUDC have left everything on the dance floor.
Image Credits: Georgetown University Dance Company