Dance performance debuts tonight

Alyssa Sparacino

James Bond pun and all, “Dance 007: To Live and Let Dance” highlights faculty choreography and two pieces from outside sources, all performed by many Kent State dance majors and minors.

The concert opens at 8 p.m. today at E. Turner Stump Theatre inside the Music and Speech Center and will run through Dec. 2.

Andrea Shearer, the coordinator of the dance division in the School of Theatre and Dance, said the faculty concert is put on annually and gives the students a chance to take what they’ve learned in the classroom onto the stage.

“In an art form like this, it’s not enough to just teach them in the classroom,” she said. “It requires different skills, and those are skills they can’t get in the classroom.”

This is a unique year for the dance program, its faculty and students. Through funding from the Thomas Schroth Visiting Artist Series, the program was able to bring in the Chicago-based contemporary jazz company, Jump Rhythm Jazz Project.

The company came to Kent State, chose its cast of dancers and chose a piece for them from their own repertoire. Though Kent State’s dance program focuses on modern and jazz, Melanie George, the rehearsal director for the piece, said the company’s technique is “unlike anything else out there.”

There is also a piece that was originally choreographed in 1959 by May O’Donnell, a professional American modern dancer. This piece, titled “Dance Energies,” deals with the movement between men and women and the different types of energies dance can create.

These two works aside, the rest of the concert is solely choreographed by the dance faculty.

“Art reflects life, life reflects art,” which is why the audience sees something different from the concert each year, Shearer said.

She said each piece is distinct and each faculty member choreographs differently. She also said she hopes audience members come with an open mind.

“We think about things in different ways,” she said. “We’re inspired in different ways so we come up with different kinds of pieces.”

Two faculty members will also perform a piece they choreographed together, which Shearer said is as much of a learning experience for them as it is for the students.

“Faculty is not just teachers. We are artists as well,” she said. “Every time we get better at choreographing. Every time we get better at performing.”

Shearer said the performances benefit all dance majors and minors, as they are part of the development process.

Emily Jeffries, a junior dance performance major, said there are many opportunities to perform in Kent State’s dance program.

Jeffries transferred to Kent State in Fall 2006 from Ohio University because she said she wanted a more professional, challenging atmosphere.

“It’s a well-recognized program,” she said. “I wanted to develop my technique and make it in the real world.”

Jeffries said Kent State’s dance program has challenged her both intellectually and physically, and she likes that her work in the classroom can be shown through the concert.

“To work so hard in class and to make all those combinations, it really makes a difference when people see them and they’re valued,” she said.

Tickets are $8 and are on sale at the box office in the Music and Speech Center.

Tonight’s concert will be directly followed by a question and answer session held by George and four student dancers who will discuss their technique and experiences with the Jump Rhythm Jazz Project.

Contact performing arts reporter Alyssa Sparacino at [email protected].