Rider Dances encourages kinship in “Moving in Our Community”

by Jason Mount

Folk, competition, modern, tap, ballet, ballroom and activism; these were the styles of dance explored in Rider Dances 2020 show, “Moving In Our Community,” which took place March 7 and 8 in the Bart Luedeke Center Theater.

Before the show started, the stage was adorned with several projection screens, showing videos of people dancing in several scenarios: in a theatrical setting, in a park, at a folk celebration and in a dance studio just to name a few.

The lights then dimmed to near darkness, the only illumination coming from the lights on the stage. One screen remained on stage, explaining that folk dance thrives in cultures filled with oral tradition, and the movement helps pass down tales from generation to generation. Suddenly, the door in the back of the theater opened as the dancers moved fluidly down the aisle toward the stage.

Dressed in vibrant colors with bells around their ankles and long, sheer blue fabric in their hands, the dancers gently and delicately made their way onto the stage, emulating the motions of a river with a combination of poses, movements and facial expressions. A gentle mist loomed in the air on stage, making the performance mesmerizing, alluring and a calm opening to the rest of the night.

Next came the segment on competition dance, a unit of four solo dances to convey the focus and dedication that comes with dancing in a competitive situation. The stage was lit with red and blue hues, the ratio of colors changing depending on the soloist.

After the bright colors came a dance shrouded in more darker tones. The modern dance, “Calls @ 3,” dressed the dancers in all black as they moved to a techno beat.

Junior dance major Morgan Nash said that “Calls @ 3” was her favorite piece to be a part of. Nash worked with the dance’s choreographer Laney Engelhard before and appreciates the unique style and musicality that goes into her movements.

“Her piece this year was special in that she gave the dancers opportunities to choreograph our own phrases, which were incorporated into the dance,” Nash said. “We also got a chance to improvise on stage and really connect with the vibes of the music, which I really enjoyed.”

Next was a flashy tap number, brightly lit as a number of dancers clicked, clacked and tapped to the rhythm. This number was high energy, involving multiple tap moves that were well-executed. To contrast the upbeat atmosphere the tap number brought, a ballet number followed after it.

Accompanied by soothing music, the piece “Stardust Soul” featured cool hues lighting the stage as the dancers, decorated in flowing gowns and ballet slippers, deftly and swiftly moving across the stage and showcasing their grace and beauty. 

To bring the energy back up, the piece “Don’t Kill The Vibes” exemplified social and ballroom dance, and how the art of moving together has been a form of courtship and social interaction for centuries. As the dancers entered the stage, they stood separately from each other, seemingly in their own worlds. When the music started however, they started to move to the beat, eventually melding their movements with those around them, creating a celebration of music, movement and interaction.

Junior acting major Victoria Robles enjoyed “Don’t Kill The Vibes” most from the show, for its ability to explore a classic dance style with a modern-era groove.

“It still focused on the art of ballroom while still making it contemporary and fun,” Robles said.

To end off the night, Rider Dances showcased dance activism, a form of dance that promotes a broader ideology and brings awareness to movements such as conservation efforts, domestic violence or, in this year’s case, immigration. 

The final piece, “Dreamers,” was a powerful note to end on, as the words spoke of the way migrants are viewed, their reasons for traveling to a new country and the negative connotations that societies place on them. The choreography combined with the poetic song rang in the audience’s head long after the show ended.

For Robles, this year’s Rider Dances proved to her that dance is important in all facets of life.

“Dance can come in many different forms,” she said. “It’s a melting pot of cultures and that’s what makes dance so beautiful and loved.”

Nash said she had a wonderful experience with this show, and that she wanted the audience to understand the love and care that goes into every category of dance.

“Rider Dances 2020 had a core focus on dance and community,” said Nash. “Each piece was representative of a distinct genre of dance, and the community it creates among the people involved. Through watching this performance, I hope that the audience could grasp just how tight-knit each cast was with one another.”

Published in the 3/11/20 edition

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