By Tristan Leach
The lights begin to dim in the lobby, the last of the lingering audience heads to their seats. As the lights go out in the theater, a hush falls over the crowd. Rider Dances: “Here We R,” is about begin.
After a year of virtual performances, the dancers of Rider are back on stage. The theme, “Here We R,” was picked to reflect the vulnerability that performers are in again after 18 months of being virtual. The show is an annual performance that started 17 years ago.
Kim Chandler Vaccaro, an associate professor of dance, said, “This year when we went back in person, people are a little bit shell shocked. We have 18 months of this pandemic trauma. So the prompt this year is ‘Here We R,’ you know, this is what happened. This concert is incredibly eclectic.”
This year’s show featured pieces choreographed by Laney Engelhard, Jennifer Gladney, Merli V. Guerra, John Barella, Julia Johnson Thick and Kim Chandler Vaccaro, all of whom are professors at Rider.
Each choreographer picked a theme or themes to which their piece was tailored. They were encouraged to pick themes that they had a passion for, ranging from stories about emotions during quarantine to climate change.
The show opened with a tap number that expressed the pain of having to do classes over Zoom. However, the number had a happy ending, performing to the song “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John, the students of the dance programs showed that they had come out stronger from the pandemic.
Anna Fredeen, a senior dance science major, said, “Being back on the stage means the absolute world to me. This is my last performance as a senior at Rider, so it has a lot of meaning. I think the show overall shows our perseverance.”
This year’s performance not only featured amazing performances but also advanced technology. Using cameras installed above the stage, dancers’ movements were tracked and projected behind them. This technology was used for pieces like Vaccaro’s and Guerra’s.
“We’re exploring new mediums,” said Vaccaro. “It’s not just recording dance, it’s actually creating dance with the technology. We have interacted with the projection designer Yoshi Tanokura, and we’re experimenting with a new technology.”
This experimentation allowed the audience to see the dancers in new ways. Guerra’s piece was about the stars, and students in the piece laid on their backs while stars were projected onto them. This immersed the audience into the story and allowed for a deeper understanding.
“The technology is really cool. I never experienced a show that has so much technology in it. The technology is very advanced, and we’re very fortunate to be working with it,” said Fredeen.
While the technology was stellar, it was the passion of the dancers that brought it all together. Thunderous applause followed every number with friends and family cheering on the performers.
After a night of fun, audience members gathered outside of the theater, waiting with flowers and gifts. The smiles on everyone’s faces showed just how happy they were to be back. Performance is back and better than ever, and Rider Dances is here to prove that they are still here.