Review: Dance Alabama creates ‘safe and welcoming space’ for UA students

Savannah Ichikawa, Contributing Writer

Dance Alabama gave performing arts students the opportunity to showcase their work from March 31 to April 2 in the theater of The University of Alabama’s English Building.

Every semester, Dance Alabama features a collection of performances choreographed and designed by students. These showcases feature dances of all genres, ranging from classical ballet, jazz and acro to musical theater, contemporary and hip-hop. This semester’s concert consisted of 26 numbers.

“One of the beauties of Dance Alabama is that it is an opportunity for our students to really expand their artistic voice,” said Lawrence Jackson, associate chair and associate professor of dance. “We really try to cultivate students finding their individuality within their work.”

Jackson is the artistic director of the Alabama Repertory Dance Theatre. He collaborates with a large team of managers, designers, choreographers and dancers to oversee the production of Dance Alabama.

The dance department aims to make these shows visually stimulating and captivating for audiences. Since each production of Dance Alabama features new sets of choreographers and dances, there is diversity within the program and thematic ideas for each piece.

“Watching a student have a seedling of an idea and carrying that idea to a full-fledged work is the most rewarding, gratifying aspect for me,” Jackson said. “It’s always amazing to see in such a short amount of time, the quality of work they produce.”

This year was the theater and dance department’s first full season back on stage with live audiences, who were treated to unique lighting techniques, colorful costumes and props.

Every dance conveyed a story that was original to the artist who choreographed it.

“Pearls,” a piece choreographed and performed by Ashleigh Hartnett, a junior majoring in dance, was a contemporary duo that showcased soulful movement.

Though there were only two dancers on stage, Hartnett and Jordan Pope, a graduate student studying dance, the emotion they put into the choreography filled the space of the stage and pulled the audience in.

“JT’s Ladies,” an energetic hip-hop dance choreographed and performed by Payton Burcham, a junior majoring in dance, and Zoe Woebkenberg, a junior majoring in dance and psychology, was amusing because of the dancers’ personalities on stage.

The Justin Timberlake mix was great for the audience because everyone was familiar with the music, and the dancers on stage did a great job of keeping the audience engaged through dynamic choreography and visibly having fun interacting with one another on stage.

A few numbers later, one dancer occupied the stage in a piece titled “The Singer.” Choreographed and performed by Mackenzie Hollis, this piece was an expressive contemporary solo that showcased great skill and technique. Hollis fluctuated between soft, flowing, sharp and dynamic movements that captured the audience’s attention.

Following “The Singer” was a group jazz number titled “Welcome to Burlesque.”

Choreographed by Libby Julian, this number utilized bright pink feathers and flashy costumes. The dance was full of lively movement that paired well with the mood and energy of the song.

One of the most visually stunning pieces from the show was “Farewell,” choreographed by Caroline McGrath, a junior majoring in dance.

This contemporary lyrical piece featured a group of dancers in gorgeous white costumes who used white flower petals to emulate snow on the stage. The snowy effect on stage and the intricate choreography made this number sensational.

Finally, saving the most energetic piece for last was a workout-themed hip-hop piece choreographed and performed by Caio Godoy, a sophomore majoring in dance, and Emilia Stuart, a graduate student studying business administration and theater arts management.

This colorful and active dance got the audience excited and even featured dancers roaming through the main aisles of the theater, making the audience feel involved in the piece. The fun, upbeat vibe of the song, mixed with the dancers’ never-ending energy on stage, made for a show-stopping performance.

Every number had its own flair and was appreciated by the audience in so many different ways. The beautiful aspect of dance, and art in general, is that it’s subjective.

Avery Tyer, a senior majoring in psychology and dance, explained the meaningful role Dance Alabama has played in her life. Dance Alabama was the main reason she came to the University, and it has allowed her to combine different passions.

The choreography for her final production, a piece titled “Natural Defenses,” was inspired by her interest in science and love for dance. Her number emulates the immune response that occurs when a pathogen invades the body, giving creative light to her scientific interests.

“Dance Alabama has given students a chance to enhance their creativity and performance artistry, as well as participate in various community outreach and service events, all through our love of dance,” Tyler said. “It is hard to put into words the love and encouragement I feel walking into every audition, rehearsal and show day. Dance Alabama has created a safe and welcoming space for creativity and dance. It is not just a production or an organization. It is home.”

Whether it’s through the props and tricks, or the elegance of the movement on stage, it is easy to connect with the dancers performing because it is evident they put their hearts into their routines. Every piece shows off diverse talent for an overall breathtaking experience, making Dance Alabama a must-see event on campus.

Questions? Email the culture desk at [email protected].