Hip-hop, modern and ballet are just a few of the styles featured in the annual student-run spring dance concert held on May 27 and 28 in Spanos Theatre. Titled “Element,” the concert features 20 original dance pieces, each choreographed and performed by students.
The spring dance show has been a place for those wishing to perform, but may not be a part of the Cal Poly dance department. This year’s student director, business administration senior Joni Fleischer, said auditions are open to anyone who has a passion to move.
“It’s really cool because you don’t have to be taking a dance class at Cal Poly, you don’t have to be a dance minor, you don’t have to be in Orchesis — it’s all just students who like to dance,” Fleischer said.
Hopeful dancers and choreographers showed up to the first meeting in March, where choreographers demonstrated a few of their dance steps. Dancers then could sign up for as many dances as they wanted, depending on the skill level required. Computer science senior Ryan Badilla, who choreographed a break dancing piece titled “Get Down MoTown,” said he invited all levels of dancers to try out for his piece as long as they were willing to learn.
“What I did was open it up to whoever feels they’re confident to learn something like this. I know that break dancing is really specific, and not a lot of people do it. So I just opened it up to everybody. We can have all different levels,” Badilla said.
Other choreographers found that advanced dancers were attracted to their direction. Recreation, parks and tourism administrations senior Meghan Hudson, a member of Cal Poly’s dance company Orchesis, said her modern piece “Cunning” has drawn mainly Orchesis dancers. Hudson drew inspiration from American dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham, who is regarded as a father of American avant garde.
“My pieces is a tribute or investigation of his technique,” Hudson said. “A lot of dance is based on emotion or a story, and his is very much removed from any kind of thing like that. It’s all about the movement. My dance has no story — there are a lot of chants, and a lot of improv.”
Although any determined dancer can join the show, Fleischer said choreographers must demonstrate a certain level of experience.
“There’s no real requirements, but we do have certain standards as far as creativity and artistry,” Fleischer said. “That’s something that I kind of have to keep an eye on.”
Fleischer began preparations more than two months ago and has been working closely with her assistant director, business administration sophomore Guinevere Chan. The two have put many hours into everything from scheduling to rehearsals. They both said the most difficult part was putting the 160 dancers into the dances they wanted.
“Me and Joni spent 17 hours just trying to organize everyone,” Chan said. “I think that was the biggest challenge — trying to make as many people happy and trying to get everyone involved. We were sitting in the library going delirious — but in the end it’s worth it because everyone gets to do what they want to do.”
The team said they are both people-pleasers and that has proved difficult with a mass number of people to organize. Fleischer said making people happy has also been a challenge when looking at the big picture.
“Everybody in the show is an individual and has their own needs and schedule,” Fleischer said. “So just trying to make everybody happy has been difficult, and it’s helped me realize that I can’t make everybody happy.”
Despite the preliminary stress of the directors, dancers seem excited to make their debut on stage. Mathematical sciences freshman Kelsey Latourette will be performing for the first time in the concert in both “The Dollhouse,” a ballet and jazz piece, and “You’ll Never Break Me,” a lyrical-driven dance. She said she saw the concert as an opportunity to explore the dance department.
“I was looking to meet more people in the dancing department and see if it was something I wanted to do — just get my feet in the water, and try it out,” Latourette said. “I took a ballet class at Cal Poly, but we didn’t really get to perform, so it’s nice to be in that again.”
Other students decided to take on a heavier load and with practices for each dance at two hours a week, the time adds up. Business administration senior Lindsay McQuaid is performing for the first time in the spring concert in three dances: “Bollywood,” an Indian dance, “Lady Marmalade,” a jazz number, and “Make Me Go Woo Woo,” a hip-hop number.
“I had basic knowledge of jazz, and the hip-hop just looked like a lot of fun, and ‘Bollywood’ was something new to learn and have fun with and not be super serious,” McQuaid said. “I just had a lot more time to do it this quarter. And the practices are on weekends, so I figured, why not?”
With tickets almost sold out, the variety of students and dances should prove for a colorful two-hour concert, filled with energy and excitement of both first time and experienced dancers. Fleischer said that she feels the title “Element” properly ties the whole together.
“My idea was that elements in science are the bare bones — down to the core. They’re all really unique and have different traits. And when they come together in nature, they make beautiful things. My idea was that as dancers, we’re all our own elements and when we come together, we create masterpieces,” Fleischer said.
The concert begins at 8 p.m. with doors opening at 7:30 on both Thursday May 27 and Friday May 28. Tickets are available at the Christopher Cohan Performing Arts Center box office, online, over-the-phone at (805) 756-2787 or at the door for $5 for the public.