And We Danced: Dance Workshop 2017

Dance Workshop, Colorado College’s student-choreographed dance performance, took place last Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. The show is a much-celebrated tradition at CC, attended by the majority of the student body. Friday night was no different. Students danced to middle school throwbacks, pop favorites, and Latin classics, all while hearing the claps and cheers of vocal audience members.

Photos by Jinkang Yu

Dance Workshop Co-Chair Evans Levy ’18 mentioned the meticulous preparation required for the three-night event: “We start the process usually before the school year even begins with figuring out when we were going to hold choreographer auditions, dancer auditions, a mid-way showing check-in of all the pieces, technical rehearsals. Everything is done in advance.” From there, Levy and her fellow co-chairs, junior Maggie Mehlman and sophomore Zoe Lilak, executed their plans. The five days of technical dress rehearsals leading up to the performance are a particularly busy time for co-chairs, choreographers, and dancers alike.

As a student-run performance, the responsibility falls on the co-chairs to facilitate the event. Through an application process, a student representative from each year is chosen to take on one of these positions. “The first year, as a sophomore, you’d be really trained in the job and get a lot of mentoring and get a feel for what the job entails,” said Levy. “As a junior, you really hone that skill set. And then, as a senior, you act as the mentor, the one who oversees. You’re really the go-to person to make sure the others are ready to take it over when you leave.” This year, with Mehlman abroad, Communications Ambassador Natalie Watrous took on her responsibilities.

Choreographers fill out a general information form to be admitted to the performance, including length, theme, costume, and music. The form allows the choreographers to communicate a vision that can then be implemented into their final product. It is also recommended to attend choreographer auditions. As Levy explained, “It’s a lot easier to see something than to hear about it. And also, it shows us that they’re prepared to choreograph and they’ve put some thought into it. We’ve had choreographers in the past end up dropping their pieces a week or two before the show because they just didn’t have it together.”

Despite this requirement, the co-chairs emphasize the importance of trying out, no matter experience level. “It doesn’t have to be classical dance training,” Levy said. “You don’t have to be dancing since you were five. We’ve had choreographers who’ve come in and said, ‘I’ve only ever danced for dance workshop, but I’m a senior and I just want to choreograph a fun piece.’ We really try and listen to everyone with an open mind.” That being said, preparation is highly influential for admittance, particularly during high influx years.

Dancer and choreographer Anika Grevstad explained the time-consuming—but incredibly rewarding—nature of being a choreographer: “I’ve found that it takes me a huge amount of time to choreograph, and it’s a little bit more stressful to me than being a dancer, because when you’re choreographing, there are a million possibilities for any given moment in the dance, so there’s a ton of decisions to make. And of course I want to put something on stage that I’m proud of!”

Grevstad choreographed a 10-dancer, all-female piece to the song “The Bayou.” The intention she displayed with her piece is characteristic of the choreographers chosen for Dance Workshop. “I wanted to make a piece that involved women lifting women because I didn’t see that a lot in dance growing up,” Grevstad explained. “My original inspiration was to show the push and pull between conforming to a group and doing what you want to do as an individual.”

Levy described a similar intention behind her own choreographed dance to “Give Me Love” by Ed Sheeran: “I always want my movement to feel good and look good on my dancers,” Levy said. “I’ve done some choreography before, but I really prefer to see how they move and interact with one another. The way that dancers are really going to give it their all is if they are given movements that are really going to make them shine.”

Dance Workshop is unique in that all auditioning dancers are admitted to the show. Similar to the choreographers, no matter a dancer’s skill level, they are encouraged to audition. As Levy noted, “It’s a cool thing, and not, necessarily, something that usually happens in the dance world.” The co-chair dance piece, which all dancers are welcome to, opens up the show and is often an audience favorite.

Levy, as a senior, embraces the opportunity to see Dance Workshop transform into a compilation of more meaningful and intentional performances. “I feel like the production value has grown, and it’s become more professional in that way,” she said. “I feel like people really value the opportunity to choreograph, so the pieces that audition for us are really put together thoughts and have a lot of meaning behind them.” Particularly this year, choreographers emphasized unity and togetherness in their performances, creating an unintended theme throughout the show.

Grevstad commented on this same sense of unity: “I think Dance Workshop is really powerful because so many people from so many parts of campus come together for this one event, whether to dance for the first time or for the hundredth time, or even just to support their friends from the audience.” The sense of community fostered by Dance Workshop keeps dancers and audience members coming back.

Although it is popular to see the Dance Workshop performance, few see the intention behind its production. Levy explained, “It’s super fun, filled with energy, and really open to any skill level.” If interested, auditions for the spring production are Block 5. Follow the Dance Workshop Facebook page to stay up to date.

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