Raising the “barre” with Rider Dance Ensemble

By Jason Mount

Parents and peers filed into the Bart Luedeke Center theater and were greeted by a QR code for the event’s program and a slideshow of backstage shenanigans projected on the elevated screen.

Immediately, the feeling of love and camaraderie was apparent during the Rider Dance Ensemble (RDE) fall showcase “Raising the Barre.” The showcase featured over 90 dancers in a variety of dance styles, according to RDE President Julia Tubbs.

“This show had a lot of different styles of dance. In previous years, it’s been mostly contemporary dances with a few jazz dances and then one tap dance,” Tubbs said. “This year we had an equal number of jazz and contemporary along with three tap dances and within those styles there were variations within those styles. In the jazz dances, there was up-beat, sexy, musical theatre and traditional and within the contemporary dances the different styles of the songs were reflected in the movements of the dance. Even the three taps each had their own style.”

Each of the pieces were choreographed by the students involved with RDE, and the emotions expressed ranged from fun and energetic to sincere and solemn. 

The rehearsal process for the showcase was quick and varied from dancer to dancer, explained senior dance major Rose Conroy-Voza.

“After the choreographers choose their dancers, rehearsals usually begin within the next two weeks,” she said. “The rehearsals are usually once a week for about an hour for each dance you’re casted in.”

While rehearsals are meant to just teach the choreography in the residence hall lounges they find, Conroy-Voza believes they are also important to form an emotional connection between dancers.

“I have learned now, as a senior and also looking back, that this time is one of the strongest bonding experiences,” Conroy-Voza elaborated. “Dance is already an activity where people move, breathe, create and express together… But now we have a bunch of tired college students all crammed into a tiny lounge. It makes for all of those things plus a ton of inside jokes, sleepy giggles and some of the funniest hours of the week.”

As the dancers rehearsed for the coming showcase, they eventually came upon tech week, which is Tubbs’s favorite part of the process.

“Leading up to the showcase most dances rehearse apart from each other, so the first time that everyone sees all of the dances is at the run through the week of the show. This has always been my favorite part of the process as everyone is so supportive of each other and it’s always so exciting seeing everyone’s dances for the first time,” Tubbs said.

As expected, a show with such a massive volume ran into problems before it was performed in front of an audience.

For Conroy-Voza, her biggest obstacle was rehearsing in small spaces such as the residence hall lounges, but for Tubbs, it was merely coordinating with all of the people involved in the showcase.

“We are one of the largest student organizations on campus, so the hardest part was probably making sure that everyone knew when to be where especially for the week of the show. Many of our students are also involved in other activities on campus so coordinating when people were going to be absent or late and notifying everyone that their absence was going to impact the show,” said Tubbs.

Despite the small rehearsal spaces and large group coordination, RDE was able to stun its audience with its dancing.

They dazzled the audience with large group numbers to Lady Gaga and Beyoncé songs, and gripped its attention with slow-tempo, heartfelt pieces. The mixture of up-beat, high energy performances with the softer ones were evenly paced, making sure audience members were never lulled to sleep by slow piece after slow piece or high-strung after multiple up-beat songs in a row.

Overall, “Raising the Barre” was a beautiful showcase of students’ talent for dance, and audiences left the theater impressed by the creative movement displayed on stage.

Published in the 11/13/19 issue of The Rider News.

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