By Rachael Ostheim

More than 400 Principia community members registered to watch last night’s virtual version of the 2020 Dance Production – a two-hour show with 13 dance numbers by 11 student choreographers. The performance consisted of videos done remotely of each that was edited in with videos of the various casts together recorded before they left campus.

“I think it was honestly better than I expected,” says Delaney Gatine, a junior from California, who watched the production and admits not knowing what exactly she had been expecting of a virtual dance production. “All the dances seemed really put together, and the contrast between the live performances and the videos was really interesting and gave a different perspective on each dance.

“I think what stood out to me the most was the emotion that each dance was filled with. In both performances of each dance, you could tell that the dancers were passionate and were channeling their emotions into the dances,” says Gatine.

The Dance Production ‘talk back Q&A’ webinar was shut down this afternoon because it was hacked. See Pilot coverage here.

The virtual performance itself opened with Erin Lane, the theater and dance professor and director of the production, speaking on Zoom about how the show came to this virtual format and why it was in the format it was. She also offered gratitude before the show began. Then, a Vimeo link was posted in the chat for the audience to copy and paste into browsers, and that led them to the recordings produced on the fly in the 24 hours between the announcement of campus closure and the actual closure. 

“I’m so grateful for how great everything unfolded,” says assistant director Katie Penfield, a senior.

That unfoldment was uncertain when the announcement was made not to return to school after spring break.

The 36-member dance production cast was called to McVay Center of the Performing Arts for an important meeting with Lane after that announcement on March 12. She said that Dance Production would not happen and the only possibility of keeping what the cast had worked on all semester was to film it the following day. The cast agreed to the challenge of performing the most up-to-date versions of their dances on the McVay stage.

‘Dolce,’ choreographed by guest choreographer Lynn Peterson during the winter workshop and performed at McVay on March 13 for video recording. Left to right: Emily Coolidge, Ashley Grindstaff, Valerie Haley, Gail Pyne, Eloise Esseks, and Katie Penfield. Photo by Rachael Ostheim.

“I was devastated. I knew I already had plans to fly home, and so many other people also were going to be heading in all different directions, and I was very sad that all of us would be parting ways,” choreographer Emily Coolidge says in an email. “As a senior, I was also feeling down, because I wanted so badly to perform one last time on the Principia stage and see my (and all of our) hard work come to fruition,” says Coolidge.

On the Friday before Spring Break, cast members performed their dances throughout the day. Marley dance flooring was brought to McVay early in the morning and rolled out across the stage. Costumes were put together last-minute by Leah McFall, costume designer. Lighting came together in a flash by Tom Halsey, lighting designer. The show was live-streamed on Erin Lane’s Facebook page throughout the day.

Two weeks later, once Spring Break was over, Lane sent out an email for the choreographers to meet via Zoom and for the cast to meet the following night. She challenged the choreographers to create remote videos telling the story of their dances. She explained to the whole cast the concept and shared the idea of a virtual show.

Saturday rehearsals continued as usual with a spiritual met and stretching via Zoom. Choreographers started to work immediately for the remote videos to be made. They sent requests to their cast members for what needed to be videotaped. Then the choreographers compiled all the videos to edit, and finally created one video of the entire cast doing the dance remotely for the show.

‘At Last,’ was choreographed by Melissa Hardy and performed March 13 for video recording. Standing left to right: Rachael Ostheim, Lily Oyer, Melissa Hardy, Amanda Schwabe. Sitting left to right: Bree Schwabe, Emma Lopez. Photo by Katie Penfield.

 “When the concept of a virtual show was first presented to us, I’m not going to lie … my initial reaction wasn’t positive,” says senior cast member Lily Oyer. “I thought that there would be no way to pull it together in such a short amount of time, and that nothing could ever recreate what we were working towards. But, those thoughts didn’t last long. It is an incredibly unique piece of art that is so special in its own way, and the original elements from the dances remain.”  

Featured photograph at top cast of Petrīkôr, choreographed by Emily Coolige. The dance was performed at McVay on March 13 for video recording. Standing left to right: Bree Schwabe, Katie Penfield, Hunter Benkoski, Hannah Sablan. Kneeling left to right: Kayleen Rice, Emily Coolidge, Taylor Marples. Standing left to right: Bree Schwabe, Katie Penfield. Photo by Rachael Ostheim.

Dance is titled: Petrīkôr

Image courtesy of Sophie Hills