“If, Then, a thesis performance by Grace Geracioti,” technically was the final project for Geracioti’s dance minor, but the senior English Literature major felt that the label “thesis” sounded more enticing. The performance premiered in Cossit Hall on Dec. 3.
“It dawned on me that this is the last time in my life that I’ll have all the resources needed for a dance (dancers, space, time, lights, audience) free and open to me so I really felt like I had to take advantage of that availability,” said Geracioti of her initial motivation to create the piece. “Even though I am an English major, I put a lot of my time and effort into dance, so it felt fitting in my mind to call it a thesis. It also sounds like it holds more weight than a minor project in my opinion.”
Geracioti fell in love with dance long before she came to Colorado College. She “started taking dance classes at around age five,” in addition to dancing with her mom’s local “dance group” in her hometown of Brooklyn. “I danced with them in nursing homes, schools, street fairs, and on stage,” said Geracioti of dancing with the group as a child. “It was a really casual and open dance group but they were able to pull off some really great shows and work with outside choreographers, so it was amazing to grow up with.”
For the performance itself, Geracioti chose five dancers that she had previously worked with because she “knew they were reliable and that [she] worked well” with them. It was also important to her that the dancers have a wide range of styles and backgrounds to add diversity to the piece. “One movement looks so different on one dancer than it does the other, but it really works because they are all such strong performers who dance so well with each other,” she said about the variety of skills and styles among her dancers.
Sophomore Isabel Young had performed in one of Geracioti’s Dance Workshop pieces the year before, along with two of the other dancers from the thesis, Sophia Pray and Emmy Heyman. Young was initially approached by Geracioti in August to see if she was interested in performing in the “thesis-like” performance.
“The thesis was an amazing experience,” said Young. “The perfect group of dancers with an amazingly talented choreographer ended up feeling more like a family than a cast.” She also stated that she enjoyed working with a style of dance that she was previously unfamiliar with. “Working with Grace and the other dancers was simply a dream- Grace is definitely one of our favorite choreographers. Her dance style is so unique you can see her in every movement of the dance, but at the same time she not only lets us, but encourages her dancers to personalize it, to fit it on each of our bodies and make it our own.”
Geracioti began rehearsing for the project at the beginning of the semester, and she normally scheduled two rehearsals per week until the show. Although she would set aside time for her to choreograph and conceptualize before rehearsals, she admits, “a lot of ideas came when I’m sitting in class. If you look through my notebook almost every page has a little corner with a bunch of scribbles and dots so that I can remember the idea later in rehearsal.”
Geracioti also said that a lot of her dances “start with images” She elaborates, “I just sort of saw the space and lighting in my head and worked from there. My original image was a ton of lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling and chocolate in the audience.” She also wanted to play with the idea of an unconventional performance setting by having the performance in the Cossitt Gym rather than in a more traditional theater setting, such as Armstrong or Packard. “The lights were really dim for a lot of the dance, and the audience sat on yoga pillows and blankets instead of chairs” stated Geracioti of other ways that she broke traditional performance conventions. “The dancers danced like they were dancing in a conversation with the audience and made a lot of eye contact. The goal was to make the space feel really intimate and personal for everyone in the audience.”
“The concept came second, and it was the first time I’ve made a dance based off of a personal experience,” said Geracioti of her creative process. “Even though a lot of my movement and mood was taken from my own personal experiences, my ultimate goal was to create a dance that anyone could emotionally connect to and take something away from, even if they don’t usually ‘get’ or ‘understand’ dance.”
When talking about her experience with the project, Young also described the pleasant atmosphere that Geracioti created during their time together. “The rehearsals with their atmosphere of low lighting, comfy clothes, and chatty warmups were always a welcome break from the stress of the block plan for me and they will be well missed by all of us, I’m sure.”
As a senior looking past graduation and into the future, Geracioti doesn’t yet have a concrete idea of how she wants to continue with dance. “I hope to be able to use dance to help people mentally and emotionally and to share how important dance can be for other aspects of someone’s life. I hope to be able to continue choreographing in some respect,” she said. “A few people told me [after seeing her performance] that they hadn’t been that emotionally affected by a dance in a long time (or ever), which was exactly what I was trying to do. I have made a lot of dances that people really enjoy watching, but I have never had people come up to me and say they had an emotional experience from something I made. It feels pretty crazy and cool to have made people react that way.”
When asked how she personally connected with the work, Young replied, “2016 hasn’t been the easiest year for me, as well as for many others I’m sure, but the music, the movement, and the premise of relationships in this piece served as a reminder to stay open, stay open, stay kidding, and stay understanding.” For those who weren’t able to attend the original performance (or those who want to see it again), Geracioti and her dancers will be presenting the piece for Cornerstone Arts Week during the second week of block 5 in the Cornerstone Main-Space.