Student choreographers step into the spotlight in upcoming dance showcase

The University of Arizona School of Dance is showing off some of their choreographers and dancers this weekend at "In the Moment — Student Spotlight." Undergraduate and graduate students are bringing pieces of all different styles and inspirations to the show.

“It’s not just concert ballet dance; it’s really exciting,” said Natalie Clevenger, a senior majoring in dance. 

Clevenger choreographed one of the featured pieces, “King,” in a modern style with inspiration from choreographer Martha Graham and the techniques used at Indiana Dance Company, a studio Clevenger was a part of.

Clevenger’s piece will be performed by eight men and one woman, all undergraduates in the dance program. With her choreography, Clevenger has created a contrast between the movement of the female soloist and the eight men by having the men adopt more feminine movements. 

“I feel like dance has a very big potential as an art form because it’s using the human body,” Clevenger said. “A lot of times, I think it’s just choreography for choreography, and I wanted to try to experiment and make something that was a piece of art and that was speaking to someone.” 

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While she danced a solo that she choreographed herself last year, this will be Clevenger’s first piece that she has choreographed to be exhibited by other dancers.

Haley Johnson, a senior majoring in dance, is another one of the students showing her work at "In the Moment" this weekend. Johnson has had several works performed in various UA shows in the past, but this will be a bit of a departure from her previous pieces that featured darker tones.

Using “Mr. Blue Sky” by the Electric Light Orchestra as her music, Johnson said the creation of this piece was very much a collaborative process between herself and her dancers. 

“I never really have a plan when I’m going through a dance,” Johnson said. “I knew I had a beginning, and then I just was inspired by the push-and-pull kind of thing with the dancers. They gave me a lot of feedback, and that inspired me and I inspired them.”

The piece, "Squabble," is about expressing small, common arguments between people through movement. Johnson said she hopes the audience can take this theme and run with it, finding their own story within it as it is a subject anyone can relate to.

Johnson described “Squabble” as contemporary, a blend of the techniques of ballet with the freedom and movement of modern.

“It’s freedom in your bones,” Johnson said. “There’s still a technique to it. You still have to straighten your legs and point your feet and you have to be very precise with each movement, but I think the beauty of choreography is using that contemporary technique to make something completely new and original.” 

That contemporary style will be seen in various performances at "In the Moment," including “Water from the Same Source.” Nicole Hennington, a junior majoring in dance, choreographed the piece to a song of the same name to explore how people are connected through who and what they learn from. 

Hennington has choreographed several pieces before, but for this process she wanted to try something new and created the choreography first, allowing the story and meaning to grow out of the movement. 

“We’re all being nurtured by the same people or by the same idea or by the same education,” Hennington said. “It’s just up to us what we do differently with it.” 

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“Water from the Same Source” features four dancers, Hennington among them.

“I appreciate how compassionate dance can be,” Hennington said. “Your individuality is appreciated in this art. It’s all about what we want to do with our own individual style and we all support each other … and that’s where the passion comes from.”

"In the Moment" will feature 12 pieces and will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 30, Dec. 1 and Dec. 2 and at 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 3 at the Stevie Eller Dance Theatre. Tickets are $25 for adults and $12 for students and can be purchased at the College of Fine Arts Box Office or online.

“It’s very pleasing and entertaining to the eye,” Clevenger said about the show. “A lot of times, modern dance gets confused for something really out there that no one can understand, but I feel like, as a non-dancer, you can come and watch the show and be entertained.”



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