Three UA students bring their theses to the stage

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You may have seen a ballet set to classical music from "Swan Lake" or "The Nutcracker," but have you ever seen a ballet featuring the graceful and elegant music of Led Zeppelin?

University of Arizona School of Dance graduate students Candice Barth, Kara Madden and David Bagley are presenting their theses at their dance concert, Focal Points, which includes three unique works by each student.

“There is something for everyone,” Madden said. “We are all doing very different projects for our thesis.”

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For Barth’s thesis, she will be performing a rock ballet inspired by Joseph Campbell’s "The Hero's Journey" and set to the music of Led Zeppelin.

“I have five songs that go with five different stages of 'The Hero’s Journey,'” Barth said. “Each song takes the hero through his journey. It starts with the 'call to adventure,' 'crossing the threshold,' 'the belly of the whale,' 'the apotheosis' and, finally, 'the return home.'”

When creating this piece, Barth used her love for Led Zeppelin's music and reflection on her own hero’s journey as inspiration. 

“The inspiration behind it was that I just wanted to create a ballet to Led Zeppelin,” Barth said. “I always listened to it when I was growing up, and my dad really likes Led Zeppelin music, so he’s kind of the inspiration behind the piece as well. I’m taking my own hero’s journey and reflecting on that, so that was also added to the piece.”

Barth has been working on her rock ballet since September. She and the dancers have been hard at work with weekly rehearsals.  

“We have been having rehearsals every Monday and Saturday,” Barth said. “We had to take a lot of breaks due to my dancers going to auditions or being in shows hosted by the School of Dance, but we have been rehearsing every Saturday since September. That’s where I’ve done a lot of creating the movement, studying the movement and rehearsing the movement.”

Madden has also been working diligently on her thesis. She will be performing a piece inspired by community members’ experiences with Alzheimer’s Disease. 

“It runs in my family, so it is something that I had experienced when I was a young child with my grandmother and has affected most of the women in my family dating back to as far as we can remember,” Madden said. “I thought it was a really important topic to articulate in a different way and try to express it through art.”

Madden’s piece will show the different perspectives of the disease and share the stories of families who had been affected by Alzheimer’s Disease.

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“I partnered with the Desert Southwest Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, and they connected me to families who are involved in the association now and who are willing to talk to me and share their stories about Alzheimer’s,” Madden said. 

According to Madden, the piece will feature audio from some of the interviews she conducted. By the end of the dance, Madden said she hopes the audience will leave feeling hopeful and seeing love is what matters most and no disease can take that away.

Bagley takes inspiration from historical themes for his thesis, bringing an action/adventure dance narrative to the stage.

“It’s based on historical themes, characters and motifs from ancient histories past,” Bagley said. 

Bagley said he has been working on the piece for about six months and has been preparing for the concert by “getting things done.”

Those attending should expect a diverse performance. Each piece brings something different to the table, keeping the audience on their feet.

“I feel like we all have very different pieces, so it goes with our theme of focal points,” Barth said. “We just have our own individual viewpoints of dance and how we are presenting our thesis project, so people who come will get a diverse show.”

As the concert draws near, Madden is excited to see a year’s worth of hard work hit the stage.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing it come together on stage, the full production with costumes, lights and the dancers,” Madden said. “We don’t get a chance to see all those production elements until the week of the show.”

All three students encourage everyone to come and experience Focal Points. Barth said she believes shows provide UA students with the perfect opportunity to relieve some stress and take a break before finals, while Bagley is excited to share the stage with his peers.

“I believe in both of them, and I’m really excited to share the experience with them,” Bagley said. “I think all of us are distinguished artists and we put together a cohesive show.”

Focal Points will be held May 4 and 5 at the Stevie Eller Dance Theatre. For more information on the show, you can visit the event’s website. 


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