This spring term, the dance program will host three performances: the Family Weekend performance, the spring showcase, and the senior dance projects’ showcase.
The upcoming Family Weekend performance will exhibit a total of nine pieces, one of which is choreographed by several students from the Advanced Dance Ensemble, the others by faculty in the dance program, including Stephanie Shumway and Lori Clark, resident contemporary and jazz teachers, respectively.
“I love the spring Family Weekend show because I love sharing a show with the music program,” commented Artistic Director Jennifer Whitcomb. “Over the years, even parents whose children don’t dance in the program come to that concert.”
For the spring showcase, seven more student-choreographed pieces will be added, with sixteen pieces in total. The showcase gives a variety of dancers with a broad range of experience the chance to dance, which allows even students with no dance background to still hold interest in performing during future shows.
“I think we straddle both ends of the spectrum of dance experience: the very beginners to the most advanced kids,” remarked Ms. Whitcomb on the spring showcase. “There are a lot of people who take Intro to Dance for one year and then come back to perform with us later in their Deerfield career. It really represents a lot of different constituencies of our community here.”
Behind the scenes, the dancers work diligently. For the choreographers, their work consists of a large amount of responsibility, including choosing the music, costumes, lighting, and, most importantly, creating an entire dance piece from nothing.
“Most people’s choreographing process is ‘spend a couple of hours in the studio, make a phrase that’s a couple eight counts, and then set it on dancers,’” elaborated dancer and choreographer Zo Williams ’19 of the Advanced Dance Ensemble.
However, instead of a single dancer working on one piece, three dancers are choreographing collaboratively for the Spring Family Weekend piece. Collaborations can make the choreographing process easier, as dancers only need to choreograph a fraction of the piece. Yet at the same time, it raises many additional issues such as cooperation between choreographers, and maintaining a consistent style.
“It’s not always this way, but the way we’re doing it is splitting it up. I have the end, another person has the middle, another has the beginning,” detailed Gigi Deinard ’20, who is part of the Advanced Dance Ensemble. “We make sure to talk to each other about the choreography throughout so they don’t seem like three different pieces.”
Sentimental emotions arise amidst these busy preparations as the senior performances approach, since seven students from the Advanced Dance Ensemble will graduate this year.
“I’ve had to remind myself a lot to be in the moment with them and not to sit there and get weepy,” admitted Ms. Whitcomb. The upcoming senior performances will showcase the solos by these senior dancers in their final dances at Deerfield Academy.
“It’s not only dance, but it’s the day before commencement. It’s like our culminating Deerfield experience,” said Mila Castleman ’18, a student dancer and choreographer. “Even as I’m choreographing and figuring out what to do, it’s not just another dance that I’ve choreographed for the winter. It’s a big closing statement.”