The nervous excitement starts to build as the dancers hear the music beginning to play. Shauna Steele, the area coordinator for dance in the School of Music at AU, instructs the performers to make a giant circle on stage behind the curtain as they await the opening of the show.
“Take your energy and throw it into the circle,” she instructs. “Clear your mind and focus on the performance, but have fun.”
It’s show time.
This is the scene just moments before the Fall Into Dance show begins. With the concert right around the corner, anticipation and excitement have already begun to build. The show is one of the largest productions the AU dance program puts on and one of the most highly attended.
Fall Into Dance debuts in November, which means that every day counts once dance students return to campus in the fall. At the heart of the show are the student choreographers, who all play a key role in the creative process.
All of the dancers arrive to campus in the fall one week before the semester begins and the hard work soon begins. During that time, instructors explain the responsibility of being a choreographer and look to see who will accept the challenge.
Once they commit, the students are not allowed to back out, at the discretion of the instructors. During the first week, the student choreographers start to narrow their focus to the genre of dance they want to work with. They conduct their own auditions and the instructors assist them in starting to build their piece.
Choreographers are given only a couple of weeks to get their casts set up before their first adjudication, where they present their work to the faculty and receive feedback. If the pieces have not made enough progress, they are cut. If faculty can see enough progress, then the dance is cleared to the next round.
“Fall Into Dance is still a concert, but it is also a training tool for the dancers and choreographers,” Steele explained. “They’ll get to write some of the press release, help make sure there are ushers and learn how to keep track of their dancers.”
Students also have the chance to be a part of the design process by meeting with lighting technicians and collaborating with costume makers. “We keep Fall Into Dance completely focused on the students,” she added.
The entire production is born out of the choreographer’s vision and creativity. Sophomore Karys Black has taken on the role of choreographer this year for the first time.
“Managing a cast itself is something I never thought I’d do in college,” she said. “I didn’t think I’d have to look after my own cast, schedule rehearsals and decide on what dancers are supposed to wear to rehearsals.”
For many of the young choreographers, it is their first taste of the real world. They are given the ability to impact the creative process of the production while under supervision and direction from professors and instructors.
There are 14 choreographers leading the charge for this year’s Fall Into Dance, the youngest only a freshman.
“They also get to meet with me and talk about what their subject and theme is and what they’re aiming for,” Steele added. “We supervise everything, we don’t just throw them out there on their own.”
Once choreographers are in tech week, they meet with production personnel to discuss the feeling behind each piece and design the set layout. Every intricate detail is contemplated carefully and chosen to fit a specific purpose. The precision of each movement by a dancer is accompanied with a very important production element to match.
Black knew right away she wanted to design a piece that evoked a lot of emotion. “My piece isn’t based as much on technique and specific movement, it’s more about getting a message across,” she said. “It’s about getting the theme, feel and energy of the movement quality and how I like to dance.”
Black’s piece, as well as the other choreographers’ creations, are sure to amaze crowds with the impressive movements and emotions conjured. The creativity and passion from the dance students is truly the driving force behind the success of the event.
Fall Into Dance is much more than a concert. It is the accumulation of hard work, dedication and excellence on all accounts. The performers, choreographers, instructors, technicians and many more all come together to celebrate the creative and talented minds at AU.
There is something at Fall Into Dance to please and entertain everyone. “It is a family show,” Steele concluded. “We’ve had six-year-olds in the audience who are very excited and we’ve had grandparents come and say different pieces have touched them.”
Fall Into Dance opens on Friday, Nov. 11w at 7:30 p.m. in Reardon Auditorium. It will be followed up by a second performance the following day at 2:30 p.m. With their ID, faculty and students are given two free tickets at the box office.