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Coming into Dance Production as a freshman almost four years ago, I had no idea what I was getting into. Now I’m very happy that I did get into it, and I can certainly say it has changed my life.
Dance Production can be an incredibly uplifting, loving and spiritual activity for the audience members, but for performers, it is even more inspiring. I strongly encourage those who will be at Principia next year to audition for it, because it will be one of the best things you do.
Almost every year we get a preview article about Dance Production, and rightly so. The other choreographers, the dancers, and especially dance professor Hilary Harper-Wilcoxen, the Dance Production director, deserve the press and recognition for the copious amount of time they put into this production. In interviews, student dancers often mention a deep sense of family and camaraderie. From an insider’s perspective, that sense is integral to this production.
The key players:
Without Harper-Wilcoxen, this production wouldn’t be the same. As the matriarch of the whole shebang, everything and anything goes through her. If she doesn’t find the ending of a piece effective, she’ll work with the choreographer to change it. If she sees someone doing a step incorrectly, she’ll help the dancer fix mistakes. Most importantly, if she sees someone doing a good job, especially a new dancer, she won’t keep it a secret.
Dance can often be a very negative experience, but Harper-Wilcoxen does an excellent job of keeping things real without destroying self-confidence. She sets the tone metaphysically. At the beginning of our Saturday rehearsals, we always have a 30-minute “metaphysical meeting.” She assigns someone to bring readings, which is followed by open discussion to share healings or remarks related to Christian Science. These sessions usually end with either a prayer or hymn. Harper-Wilcoxen is often the first to break the ice when we have open time to share. She is always bringing an insight she had with the lesson that helped her with a challenge, or explaining how Christian Science helped her through a tough time when she was dancing in New York. Without the leadership and example Harper-Wilcoxen gives with her own practice of Christian Science, this production wouldn’t run nearly as smoothly.
Katie Stanley is the saving grace of this production. She does a ton of behind-the-scenes action. Who goes through all the student schedules to find times for rehearsals that don’t conflict with another dance? Ms. Stanley. Who makes sure the dancers are in the right position, and that light cues and song changes are flawless during the production? Ms. Stanley. Who take attendance, makes sure readings are assigned, knows who has readings for that Saturday and helps mediate between media services and the choreographers? Ms. Stanley (along with Harper-Wilcoxen). Ms. Stanley does so much for this production, and is Harper-Wilcoxen’s right hand, arm and shoulder.
The “we can’t run the show without them” group:
How important is media services? Well, if we didn’t have media services, the production wouldn’t have lights or music. So basically, you would all show up and hear squeaking on the floor as the dancers move (and probably crash) around on the stage in the dark. Depending on your sense of humor, it wouldn’t be very fun. Moreover, media services ensures that the dances go as they’re intended. The choreographers meet with theater professor Patrick McCreary and his crew to go over lights, and they all patiently wait as the choreographers explain their vision and work with them until the lights are perfect. Without media services, we wouldn’t have our amazing promotional videos, and we just couldn’t function as a whole.
Leah, our costume designer, is flexible and willing to work with the choreographers. She also does laundry for us between each performance, and can sew a tear in a costume in the time between the Saturday matinee and evening shows. She is very dedicated to her job and loves all the dancers. Many people don’t realize she works tirelessly to get all those costumes for Dance Production every year. Without her, it’d be “Emperor’s New Clothes” for every dance.
The “people who do the stuff on stage” group:
Being a choreographer is not easy, and lot more time goes into it than people know. A lot of choreographers start thinking about their dance during the middle of the previous Dance Prod. Of course, the whole fall semester is spent choreographing two minutes of the dance for Harper-Wilcoxen. That’s scary, because you never know if your dance will be accepted or not, but the work starts so much earlier than that. Choreographers have to plan the dance type, the movement type, the story arc and how it will be told. The work doesn’t stop after showing Harper-Wilcoxen the piece. Choreographers have to finish the dance, go through the casting process, figure out lighting, find the perfect song (and then maybe cut it), change the dance so it works and in some cases, lose many hours of sleep worrying about your piece. I’m joking about that last one, maybe. The choreographers have a lot of work to do, including staying behind after every Saturday rehearsal to get feedback from Harper-Wilcoxen, which, as it should, can be tough to stomach sometimes.
The entire cast of dance production is ultimately what brings Dance Production together and makes it really sparkle. This cast has really come together, as it has during every year that I’ve been in Dance Prod. We’re not just a team, but a family. It’s so easy to be comfortable in this crowd of people, which, as people know, is not usually the case in the dance world. There are so many smiles during rehearsals, and so much support from everyone around you when you’re a part of this production. It’s this sense of family, this deep love and complete trust in the cast that makes Dance Production the phenomena it is on campus.