The Columns

W&L Dance Invites Audience Interaction Through Social Media

— by on December 1st, 2015

On December 9-11, the award-winning Washington and Lee Repertory Dance Company will perform “W&L Dancers Create….” in the Lenfest Center for the Arts in Lexington, Virginia. Presented by the Department of Theater, Dance and Film Studies, the evening concert, under the Artistic Direction of Jenefer Davies, will be comprised of work choreographed, designed and performed by students, showcasing the diversity and talent within the dance and theater programs.

In conjunction with the performance, the W&L dance company is reaching out to millennials through a new collaboration with Jamie Goodin, Washington and Lee social media strategist, and his team of W&L students. During pre-determined breaks in the concert, a specially designed hashtag, #WLUDance, will be projected onto a 40-foot on-stage screen, inviting audience members to open their phones and share their thoughts and questions about the work they are witnessing. At the same time, dancers backstage will Instagram what’s going on behind the scenes and respond to Twitter and Facebook questions. Goodin and his moderators, led by Taylor Gulotta ’17, will choose tweets to display in between dances on the massive stage screen.

“This collaboration will allow the audience members to connect both with one another and with the producers of the show in a new way. As opposed to waiting until after the performance to see how other people have reacted, audience members will be able to experience reactions during the show. Thus, rather than being isolated during the show, people will have the opportunity for community,” said Goodin.

“This experiment is about reaching new audiences, inviting them in and giving them a sense of inclusiveness,” Davies agreed. “Dance can be seen as a rarified environment, but really, we are just storytellers. Projecting tweets onto the stage will encourage dialogue about the work. The more people understand about what they are seeing, and the artistic goals and processes behind them, the more involved they will be in the performance. Our goal is to help make them comfortable speaking about dance.”

“The language of dance is movement,” she added. “While it may seem like a foreign language, we all possess bodies. We all move. That language is within all of us. We just need to be reminded sometimes.”

With a broad range of dance styles represented, the eclectic nature of the program should further encourage discussion. Classical and contemporary ballet works (choreographed by and Mamie Smith ’18 and Inga Wells ’16) will be performed alongside innovative post-modern pieces (Elliot Emadian ’18 and Gretchen Senglemann ’16); a light-hearted look at a runaway bride and her girl group (Nicole Porter ’16) will compete for laughs with a comic work (Emily Danzig ’16) featuring eight gray wigs, a walker and an old lady’s purse; a heartwarming journey into the children’s book “Beekle,” about an imaginary friend who is waiting for a real child to love him, (Kayla Sylvester ’17) will stand alongside a high-energy group work that expresses the frenetic panic that occurs when waking up five minutes before an appointment (Elliot Emadian ’17); while a piece with complex and layered contemporary dance choreography (Sara Dotterer ’18) will deal with the connection of breath to life, with the music of John Cage connecting the viewer to the thematic material and providing immediacy.

The concert’s student choreographers collaborated with fellow students who were responsible for lighting the works. Overseen by design professor Shawn Paul Evans, the lighting designers used the performance as a practical culmination to a semester-long class containing lecture and smaller projects. The student choreographers and designers worked in tandem, learning how to express their ideas and art with one another in order to create the work presented to an audience.

“Through actual hands-on experience, the designers used what they are learning about the science and craft of lighting to help provide visual context to the dance,” explained Evans.

Designers include Michael Garcia ’17, Taylor Gulotta ’17 and Dana Gary ’18, along with choreographer/designers Inga Wells ’16, Elliot Emadian ’18, Emily Danzig ’16 and Gretchen Senglemann ’16. The choreographers playing a duel role as designers have been specially tasked to light a piece of choreography that isn’t their own.

“I have begun to explore how light, set elements, music, and costume design can interplay and strengthen each other to communicate a clear vision,” said Emadian. “Lighting specifically can completely manipulate the mood and look of a piece to carry it to a new level of depth and intensity.”

Collaborating with Professors Davies and Evans, the W&L Repertory Dance Company and these student choreographers, dancers and designers, have dedicated countless hours in the creation of an expressive concert of new dance works. They will host a talk back following Wednesday’s performance where audience members are invited to stay for an intimate discussion about the work. It is their hope that the audience will feel inspired to participate actively by attending the performance, engaging in the social media fun and supporting the dance conversation.

Concert Details:

Wednesday-Friday, December 9-11
7:00 p.m.
Lenfest Center for the Arts
Lexington, Virginia
Tickets are $5
Purchase: 540-458-8000 or
#WLUDance