The Norman Transcript

January 10, 2014

OU Dance student showcase shakes the norm

by Emily Summars
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Performing anything from neoclassical to contemporary work, The University of Oklahoma Theatre and School of Dance’s upcoming Young Choreographers’ Showcase (YCS) is chock-full with variety and talent from student choreographers and dancers.

“People are nutcrackered out and they want to see something more cutting edge,” said Clara Cravey Stanley, associate professor of dance. “This is sort of very far away from the nutcracker season, the cute story ballet king of things. It’s a collaboration between the ballet and modern dance department — it’s the one time we rarely work together. We come together as one.”

Featuring 10 different pieces, Stanley said students create the pieces from beginning to end, considering all elements that go into a finished stage product like choreography, costuming, scenic elements and lighting.

Dancers begin the process for YCS at the beginning of the fall semester, expressing an interest to choreograph. Faculty members mentor students throughout the process.

In the beginning, Stanley said about 17 to 18 students applied for the showcase. Widdling the applicants down, Stanley said the showcase teaches students a director may see a piece and deem it not fitting for the companies image. When thinking of the whole showcase, a director needs to decide what meshes and what does not in terms of choreography.

This year’s selected choreographers are Sierra Codalata, Caitlin Cullen, Diana Drummond, Sydney Gettel, Kilmyn Graf, Natalie Kischuk, Kiosh Monroe, Nicole Reehorst, Emma Sadler and Breehannah Young.

Then comes the first of the three faculty adjudications. Choreographers and faculty line the walls of a large studio while dancers fill the room. A student choreographer then teaches about one minute of his or her piece and the student dancers then perform that piece. The choreographer writes down names he or she would like to see in their work but the faculty makes the ultimate casting decisions.

“Sometimes we can’t give them the names they want because they will be working on other pieces,” Stanley said. “And we don’t want to stick a modern person in a pointe piece. Today it’s changed so much…dancers have to be much more versatile; they have to cross over the bridge back and forth.”

Stanley said this year’s performances have anywhere from three to 10 dancers per piece, depending on the needs of the choreography.

Providing each student studio space, dancers and guidance, Stanley said the next step is working out all the kinks on stage. Costumes are pulled from storage, unless students’ get grants for new costuming, and the long hours begin as soon as student’s return from holiday break.

Choreographers also must collaborate with student lighting designers from the Peggy Dow Helmerich School of Drama. This year’s lighting designers are Samuel Brown, Zak Houara, Emily Maddox, Cooper Simon and Joshua Tyger Walden.

Stanley said, in the end, the variety of selected pieces appeal to a diverse audience, offering works that range from narrative to abstract, from pointe to modern.

Calling the process a “learning experience for everyone,” Stanley said it is the students’ showcase and the faculty truly just try to coach him or her through it.

“We like to see their [the student’s] creative ability,” Stanley said. “We want it to be theirs, but if we see something glaringly wrong with it, as mentors we should say that.”

Stanley said the choreographers do not always take the mentors advice, stating, “sometimes they say it’s not the vision they have. Some stand their ground and we’re pretty proud of that, too.”

“That’s why this is one of the favorite pieces of the season,” Stanley said. “A lot of people like to see what the student’s are coming up with, not just reproducing classical ballet or stories like the Nutcracker.”

Sidebar:

The University of Oklahoma Theatre and School of Dance’s Young Choreographers’ Showcase is scheduled for 8 p.m. Jan. 23 to 25 and 3 p.m. Jan. 26, in the Donald W. Reynolds Performing Arts Center, historic Holmberg Hall. The production is rated G.

Adult tickets cost $22, $18 for seniors and $14 for OU faculty, staff, military and students. Tickets may be purchased from the OU Fine Arts Box Office, beginning Jan. 13. For more information call 405-325-4101.

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