Choreographic Project to showcase students’ work

By CiaraShook

In an evening organized by Columbia undergraduates, the Choreographic Project exemplifies the college’s creed of teaching young professionals with a collection of performances created entirely by students.

The Dance Department will present Choreographic Project, the product of a culminating classroom experience showcasing six students’ work during their time at Columbia. The student choreographers are Lisa Leszczewicz, Dylan Noe, Kaitlan Short, Samantha Spriggs, Sarah Marvel Wattles and Alicia Wilson.

Ligia Himebaugh, marketing director of the Dance Department, said that though the Dance Center plans to host many different student performances throughout the semester, Choreographic Project is at a higher level of professionalism than other student concerts because of how seriously the students take their work.

Lisa Gonzales, assistant professor in the Dance Department, said Choreographic Project is the culminating experience for the choreographic track in the Dance Department because students have devoted the semester to prepare for the evening’s show.

“Students have spent the semester making their own pieces under the mentorship of [instructor Jennifer Grisham Dobbs],” Gonzales said. “They’re making all the choreographic and artistic decisions and then it’s produced on the stage for the concert.”

Himebaugh said Choreographic Project is part of a slew of student concerts hosted by the Dance Department each semester.

“As soon as our professional season is over, we have this five or six weeks where every weekend, there’s a student show,” Himebaugh said. “Choreographic Project has a lot more at stake.”

Choreographic Project is put on every semester by the Dance Department, but is different from other student performances, such as Student Performance Night.

“Students learning how to choreograph take it very seriously, whereas students at Student Performance Night may not necessarily be wanting to be choreographers,” Himebaugh said.

The routines will feature group pieces and will be done by the student choreographers and student dancers in the department.

“Some choreographers will be in the work and some of them made the work or set the work on other dancers,” Gonzales said.

According to Himebaugh, the course is required for students pursuing undergraduate degrees on the choreography track and is an opportunity to demonstrate their progress before progressing in the field.

“We meet in a classroom setting, but they create their work outside the classroom and hold their own rehearsals,” Dobbs said.

Dobbs said half of the student’s grade is based on classroom participation and deadlines that need to be met, with the other half based on the actual show.  A feedback session will be held at the class meeting after the performance in which the lighting designer, faculty and fellow students will critique the choreographers’ showcased work.

Dobbs said that each choreographer has a faculty mentor who attends rehearsals throughout the semester to make sure they’re on the right track.

“They give them feedback and help them with anything that isn’t working,” Dobbs said. “They will be at the feedback session as well.”

Himebaugh said Choreographic Project is a class that students have to be accepted into and they will be graded on it.

Students who are part of the class put the show on themselves, including such tasks as choreographing their pieces, auditioning a cast, scheduling rehearsals and picking music, Dobbs said.

“I just facilitate [the show] happening,” Dobbs said. “They’re pretty much responsible for everything [else].”

Dobbs said the evening’s performances consists mostly of modern dance and more of a performance art/modern piece.

One of the distinguishing features of modern choreography is it can incorporate many different styles of vocabulary and it is up to the choreographer to make sense of it, Gonzales said.

“It’s the choreographer’s vision, but it definitely comes out of an integration of everything they’ve learned at the Dance Center,” Gonzales said.

She said the performance is for the students to experience bringing their work to fruition.

“This is an opportunity for the student experience [and] for the career experience,” Gonzales said.

Choreographic Project will be at the Dance Center Dec. 3 and 4, starting at 8 p.m. both nights.