Senior performance majors share their process in choreographing concert

Seniors Jason Watkins and Marissa Davis at the B.F.A. Senior Dance Concert on March 1. Sifting was choreographed by Diane Skerbee. Photo by Casey Lawver.

Seniors Jason Watkins and Marissa Davis at the B.F.A. Senior Dance Concert on March 1. “Sifting” was choreographed by Diane Skerbee. Photo by Casey Lawver.

Megan Confer

Inspiration came from many different places as Kent State dance performance seniors prepared original pieces to present at the Bachelor of Fine Arts Senior Dance Concert, “At(ten)ion to Detail.”

Each of 10 senior dance performance majors was required to choreograph a piece for a group of dancers to perform.

Barbara Verlezza, School of Theatre & Dance associate professor, is the faculty artistic director for the concert. She choreographed the last piece, which all 10 seniors dance in.

“They are the choreographers for the show,” Verlezza said, “but in the last piece, and it will close the evening, they are all dancing together.”

Verlezza said the students did almost everything themselves to produce the concert.

“From concept, to audition casting, to rehearsal, to all the administrative work, to the artistic decisions behind it,” Verlezza said. “They even had to fundraise.”

Inspiration through a learning experience

Colleen Weiher, senior dance performance major, found her inspiration through a personal experience.

“I had shoulder surgery in August and since I was going through a struggle of learning how to dance with one arm, my peers and faculty suggested that I use that idea and run with it for my piece,” Weiher said. “Ironically, one of the dancers I selected to be in my piece had the same surgery in December, so now she’s dancing in a sling.”

However, Weiher said her inspiration wasn’t based on emotion.

“It was just more from the experience of dealing with dancing with only one arm,” Weiher said. “I’m very glad that I do have the injured dancer because while I’m recovering, she’s just beginning the process.”

Weiher said she used the injured dancer to remember her own experience when she struggled to complete her vision.

“When it comes to actually making the piece, there’s moments you just struggle,” Weiher said. “You don’t know what to do next, and you hit a creative wall. Sometimes I forget how hard it was, and then I see my injured dancer and I can put myself back there and come up new ideas.”

Inspiration through personal experiences

Jessica Kraft, senior dance performance major, found her inspiration from a 15-day trip to Cambodia during the summer.

“That affected my life and made me really focus on things happening in the world and different oppression people have in their lives,” Kraft said.

Kraft also used clips from a conference for young Christians called Passion 2012 as inspiration.

“It showed a different clip each day about slavery and these people telling their story about when they were enslaved, and it just really struck a chord with me,” Kraft said.

Inspiration can come from many places, she said.

“Some people have life experiences, and that starts your idea,” Kraft said. “Mine is a set story, so it’s very blunt. Others start with an idea, and it morphs into something else.”

Inspiration through personal style

Jordan Deckert, senior dance performance major, said all 10 choreographers have completely different sources for inspiration.

“Since we all come from different backgrounds, every single piece is very different,” Deckert said. “For me, personally, the inspiration for my piece was built off of jazz music.”

Deckert was inspired to do something fun that represented her both as a dancer and as a person.

“This is our graduating concert,” Kraft said. “It’s kind of like my last opportunity to show my choreography that really represents who I am, so I decided to create a jazz piece. It doesn’t have a story line, it’s basically movement put to music that represents my style as a jazz dancer.”

Working through the unforeseen

Verlezza said she enjoyed working with the students.

“I love that fact that it’s about the young people and it’s these young enthusiastic dancers and choreographers working with these young dancers,” Verlezza said.

Even though they all faced challenges, it was an exciting time in everyone’s career, Verlezza said.

“The choreographers are graduating and it’s so exciting to reach this point, and to see their growth and their art,” Verlezza said.

Contact Megan Confer at [email protected].