To be on stage is to be vulnerable — a situation compounded when one is both dancer and choreographer.
“There’s an emotional investment,” said senior Sarah Raker. “Allowing people to see who you are, how you move … It’s a powerful experience.”
This spring, Raker was invited to present “What Do You Go Home To?” in Chicago, at the Central Region meeting of the American College Dance Festival Association. Also representing Washington University in St. Louis were senior Sarah Hadassah Negrón and faculty member Cecil Slaughter, senior lecturer in dance.
On April 4, 5 and 6, Raker and Negrón will bring their works back to campus as part of the “Young Choreographers Showcase.”
The biennial concert, sponsored by the Performing Arts Department (PAD) in Arts & Sciences, will feature more than a dozen dancers in nine original works created by student choreographers in the PAD’s Dance Program.
Different every time
“’Young Choreographers Showcase’ presents the ‘final cut,’ the best works made this year by our undergraduate dance artists,” said David Marchant, professor of the practice in dance, who co-directs YCS with Raker.
“When you read the students’ statements of their own work, you notice a lot of the same words,” Marchant said. “Struggle, stress, frustration, anger … But when you look at the works visually, when you see the movement and hear the music, the ways they choose to express those feelings are really quite distinct.
“It’s an interesting barometer of the life of a young person right now.”
Dances are selected by a jury that includes Marchant and Raker as well as the full-time dance faculty and music director Henry Claude. Virtually all other aspects of the show, both onstage and behind the scenes, are managed by the students themselves.
“The works are mostly modern, and we have a lot of solos this year,” Raker said. “A few pieces have similar themes. Lydia Jackson’s ‘(silence)’ and Moya Shpuntoff’s ‘Unavailable,’ for example, both use small, intricate gestures. But we also have a comedic, character-driven piece that pokes fun at student stress, and another that explores house music and club culture. It’s a surprisingly diverse show.”
Raker’s own contribution, “What Do You Go Home To?” is a structured improvisation set to instrumental music by the Texas band Explosions in the Sky.
“The solo is different every time,” Raker said. “But there’s an arc to the music I try to reflect, and certain movements and motifs that I try to develop.
“I’m graduating in May,” she added with a smile, “so I’m interested in themes of nostalgia and belonging.”
Also on the program are:
“Said One to the Other”
Junior Daniela Diego choreographs this piece about two friends telling a story to the audience.
“This piece reflects the various emotions that may be experienced by people who feel marginalized,” said junior choreographer Maya Kyles, “feelings of frustration, fear, and anger and the process of letting go of these negative emotions and learning to embrace who you are.”
“can you feel it”
Senior Briana Pickens offers this “commemoration of evolved house music.”
“The dance explores feelings of isolation, exhaustion, anger, numbness, and despair that come throughout the repetitive and disappointing process of just trying to be OK,” said sophomore Moya Shpuntoff.
“Rhapsody at WU”
“This dance pokes fun at the life of a Wash U student, how students think they have to be constantly stressed out,” said junior Samantha Gaitsch. “Moral of the story: It’s OK to be happy!”
Senior Lydia Jackson said, “This gestural dance is about the frustration and anger that can come from daily interactions with strangers and friends and the struggle to be understood.”
“The Weeping Woman”
“This dance captures the various emotions (struggles, pain, etc.) associated with being a woman,” said senior Sarah Hadassah Negrón, “as well as the strength needed to endure such emotions.”
“The Music Box”
Junior Deborah Li describes “The Music Box” as “a short story about a doll who is trapped in a spinning ring by the man who owns her box.”
“Young Choreographers Showcase” begins at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 4 and 5; and at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 6.
Performances take place in the Annelise Mertz Dance Studio, located in the Mallinckrodt Center, 6465 Forsyth Blvd.
Tickets are $15 — or $10 for students, seniors and WUSTL faculty and staff — and are available through the Edison Theatre Box Office. For more information, call 314-935-6543.