In any student’s time at university, there will be challenges that need to be overcome on the way to success — challenges like a first research paper, a first group project or a first class presentation. All of these trials act as stepping stones, preparing students for challenges further down the road. For choreography and performance students in the University of Calgary’s dance department, Dance@Noon and Dance@Night are the biggest trials.
Taking place from April 8–10 and April 11–12 respectively, both performances serve as showcases of work choreographed and performed by U of C dance students. Dance@Noon acts as the year-end project for students in their junior year of the department’s choreography and performance concentration, and will be performed in the U of C’s Doolittle Studio at noon. Dance@Night is the capstone project for senior year students and will be performed at the University Theatre at 8:00 p.m., along with a performance choreographed by the renowned Peggy Baker. Both of these performances are major milestones for students, with Dance@Noon in particular providing new challenges to student choreographers.
“It is a chance for these students to show their first attempt at a larger work,” explains Melanie Kloetzel, a dance professor at the U of C and the artistic director for Dance@Noon. “The pieces are all about seven to eight minutes long and that is a big jump, compositionally, because usually in choreography classes the students work on studies that are only two to three minutes long. So this is a big step up for them, as they try to create something, sustain it as a theme and work on what it means to structure a dance piece.”
As the artistic director, Kloetzal worked closely with the student choreographers of Dance@Noon, helping them with the challenges that came with putting together a dance piece for an audience.
“This is their first time for a lot of things,” says Kloetzal. “Honestly, they have hardly even worked with music in terms of choreography yet, so that is a giant challenge in and of itself. Then when you add in issues of light design and costume design it can get pretty overwhelming for the students, but I think they are rising to the challenge.”
Kimberly Powley and Meghann Michalsky, student choreographers for Dance@Noon, have had to adapt to the heightened expectations that come with creating a performance piece, along with the pressure of a tight deadline.
“It is a lot of pressure, to push against the time limit and find the availability to produce your best work,” says Powley. “Especially since this is going to be in a show with our name attached to it. We’re all stressing out, but that’s the life that comes with the business.”
“We’re now working for a performance, instead of just for our class,” says Michalsky. “It’s much different than we have been used to, it feels like a conclusion to what we’ve been working on all semester.”
Despite the stress, both students feel like choreographing a performance for Dance@Noon has made them more prepared for what what lies ahead of them.
“You learn very quickly since you only have a short amount of time to produce something,” says Michalsky. “It helped me learn how to handle a lot of situations better for the next time I have to choreograph a piece.”
“We learned what techniques worked and didn’t work,” says Powley. “Sometimes you give your dancers a task that just ends up wasting time, so you have to think of something new. You learn something new every rehearsal, and you end up growing every rehearsal.”
While Dance@Noon represents a significant stepping stone for students in the choreography and performance concentration, Dance@Night is an even larger leap. Melissa Monteros, the artistic director for Dance@Night, explains that the senior-level performance challenges students in a number of different ways.
“It’s a wake up call, on some level, because this project requires them to make 15–20 minute performances,” says Monteros. “They are also now working unsupervised, so the level of discipline and motivation that it takes to keep moving them forward is an important part of their development during this process.”
Monteros hopes that this motivation will stay with the students involved in Dance@Night, and will continue to lead them down the path to become professional choreographers.
“I hope that they feel really inspired to continue to create work and to challenge themselves, and to keep working to develop their artistic voices,” says Monteros. “I also hope that they took pleasure in committing themselves to the task of creation, because really it is a huge endeavour.”