Liberation means freedom from constraints and limiting thought forms. For some, liberation is a state of mind and a form of empowerment. For one group of student performers, liberation comes in the form of dance.
Cal Poly’s spring student dance concert “Liberation” featured a show of student-choreographed pieces, all of which connected to the theme. More than 100 students performed a broad range of styles from hip-hop to tap to ballet in the show.
Students run the show
From directing to choreographing to performing, students were in charge of “Liberation.”
Nutrition sophomore Sarah Nguyen performed in two pieces and said the student-led aspect made for a diverse show. With 19 choreographers, each piece brought a unique perspective to the concert.
“You get so many people with different ideas from different backgrounds collaborating together,” Nguyen said. “[Choreographers] work and collaborate with other students to develop a piece they are proud of.”
While some choreographers planned their routines solo from start to finish, others entered the choreographing process seeking inspiration from the dancers in the piece.
Software engineering senior Fina Beauchamp co-directed and choreographed “Liberation.” She said she hadn’t finished her piece titled “Silver Linings” until her dancers brought it to life.
“All I knew was I had this feeling,” Beauchamp said. “I had some choreography and over time I was able to generate more choreography, but I definitely went to the dancers for inspiration.”
Collaborative efforts brought each dancer’s creativity and individuality to the concert. Beauchamp gave her dancers credit in the program for helping with the choreography in her piece.
Liberation through dance
While past spring concert directors created a theme to guide the dance pieces, the directors of this year’s concert chose the theme of liberation after reviewing the pieces the choreographers created.
Co-director and choreographer Patrick Douglas said themes of liberation and empowerment emerged from different aspects of each dance piece, whether it was through costume, choreography or the intent behind the piece.
“We wanted to really make [the theme] mean something,” psychology senior Douglas said.
Some of the routines in “Liberation” tackled difficult topics prevalent in society today. For example, some pieces took on the theme of gender.
“There’s at least a couple pieces in the show that focus on gender and liberation from typical binary gender roles,” Douglas said.
Not only do the themes of the show evoke feelings of liberation, but the art of dance itself is a way of breaking free for the dancers. Nguyen, Beauchamp and Douglas agreed that dancing allows them to forget about day-to-day stresses of college.
“Whenever I’m dancing, it’s an out-of-body experience,” Beauchamp said. “It’s like I’m not thinking about anything. Everything is muscle memory. I feel liberated, not a lot of worries. I’m just moving and everything comes together.”
Closing night of the show brought a bittersweet moment of reflection to the green room.
Both directors got their start in the dance community at Cal Poly through the spring dance concert in years prior and are graduating this spring.
“I discovered one of my biggest passions through [the spring show] and I want to grant that opportunity to other people,” Douglas said.
“Liberation” was Douglas and Beauchamp’s first experience directing a dance concert. Both agreed that working with the dancers to create meaningful pieces made the hard work worthwhile.
“We’re helping peoples visions come to life,” Douglas said.