On Thursday, Nov. 3 through Saturday, Nov. 5 in the Patricelli ’92 Theater, seniors Emily Butcher, Sonya Levine, Rick Hong Manayan, and Sarah Marks Mininsohn presented their senior dance theses to the University community. With an unmistakeable air of nervous excitement, the audience settled in and prepared to witness the product of an immeasurable amount of time and effort on behalf of a talented group of dancers, choreographers, musicians, and more.
A few minutes after 8 p.m., the lights dimmed, the audience hushed, and the Fall Senior Thesis Dance Concert began. The opening piece titled “UTOPIA01_SH3.wrld” by Manayan ( “umami goddess™”) featured performers Keren Alshanetsky ’17 (“ok_r3n”), Shemaiah Clarke ’18 (“SH3-ma1ah”), Mio Magee ’18 (“m3/mii”), Leneil Roderique ’17 (“@comegetfxxedup”), and Michelle Rosen ’17 (“DJ HEX GIRL”).
“You can’t know the moment you’re in. But interesting things occur when people are trying to define something before it’s actually happened,” reads a quote in the night’s program adjacent to the title of the dance, suggesting Ryan Trecartin, an American artist and filmmaker, as a source of inspiration for Manayan’s piece.
The two-part piece kicked off with a projected video of the members of pop group SH3 and their “momager,” Manayan, being interviewed by Roderique in a bedroom. The interview was heavily punctuated with moments of extreme vocal synthesizing, video editing, maniacal giggling, and outfits accessorized with the likes of diamond chokers and pink silk.
The lights dropped, the projector screen went black, and the performers in SH3 appeared in pop-princess athleisure, wearing headset microphones and oozing sass. They briefly transported me to one of the final scenes in The Lizzie McGuire Movie where Lizzie sings “This Is What Dreams Are Made Of.” The dancers lip-synced and danced to the pop original “ru4fake?” while the audience screamed and cheered the names of the dancers dressed as pop stars. The tone in the room suddenly shifted as a YouTube video played on the projector screen. A news anchor said “17 transgender women have died this year…this is a state of emergency” followed by the names of the 17 women flashed in big white letters across the black screen. When SH3 returned to the stage, the tone shifted back to energetic and fun; however, the dancers were now in all black and lip-synced the words “are you for real, or are you for fake?” They finished to an explosive applause and heavy hearts.
Next up was “Be Hold Me,” choreographed by Marks Mininsohn and her dancers Luisa Donovan ’18, Arden Feil ’18, Ilana Newman ’18, Amira Chambers Ottley ’18, Medha Swaminathan ’19, and Colleen B. Winslow ’17.
“Many thanks to Pamela Marks and other mothers whose holding taught me to experience suspension, and whose generosity taught me to suspend my own weight,” Marks Mininsohn wrote in the night’s program.
The piece began with the dancers in a clump singing the words to “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes and snapping their fingers. Clad in only gray and black, the piece played with balance, suspension, and lifts, with many portions forcing the dancers to physically rely on each other for support and movement. The piece felt playful, yet mature, with movement that was simultaneously fluid, quirky, and beautiful.
“bound//in ecstasy” followed, choreographed by Levine and her dancers: Cara Bendich ’19, Gui Gui Comins-Sporbert ’18, Kira FitzGerald ’17, Katie Lowen ’19, and Sophie Miller ’17.
“The New German Dance is not the result of a predetermined program. It takes its mark from the new creative personalities who through unremitting struggle have given it the unity of form and content,” reads a quote by Mary Wigman in the night’s program.
The piece began with the entire stage black, except for two discs of bright white light in which stood the violinists Bridgid Bergin, a University graduate student, and Rachel Guetta ’17, who played a somber tune by Oskar Rieding. The dancers all appeared, marching synchronously in blue jumpsuits and black turtlenecks with their hair pinned back in austere-looking French braids. The sharp and robotic marching was contrasted with quick and beautiful solos, consisting of flawless turns and flowing movement that showcased the refined technique of the dancers. Slowly, the dancers began to incorporate the Nazi salute and it became clear that the dance intended to evoke Nazi Germany and the emotions that come with it. As the music stopped, the eerie sound of the dancers breathing heavily filled the room. When the violinists resumed, the frantic music echoed the chaotic movement of the dancers as they stomped and marched off stage.
“Ticky Tacky,” the final piece, was choreographed by Butcher and her dancers Emily Murphy ’18, Amira Leila S. ’19, and Unique Wenxuan Xue ’19. It was the only piece to feature the choreographer alongside the dancers. The piece exuded playfulness and comedy, which is often challenging to portray through dance. The audience could not help but burst out into laughter on countless occasions as dancers popped out of barrels, performed circus tricks, and tripped over each other, all while donning suits, ties, and gleeful grins. Of the four pieces, this one seemed to explicitly connect with the audience most heavily through lots of eye contact and moments when the dancers literally lunged off stage into the audience.
The stunning performances did not escape the notice of fellow students.
“After I saw the thesis I kept thinking about the fact that people on campus are always so humble, it makes me forget how many really really talented students there are!” wrote Emma Ritter ’19 in an email to The Argus.