The Columns

W&L’s Department of Theatre, Dance and Film Studies presents Aerial Dance

— by on May 10th, 2017

“While four weeks is quite a short period of time to create a performance, the students embraced the challenge and exhibited a work ethic and depth of understanding that is commendable.”

The Washington and Lee University Department of Theatre, Dance and Film Studies presents “Aerial Dance,” a free performance for the community, on May 18 at 3:30 p.m. and May 19 at 11 a.m. The concert will be held outside on the wall of Wilson Hall at W&L. A Livestream of Thursday’s performance can be viewed at https://livestream.com/wlu/aerial-dance-2017

Aerial, an offshoot of modern dance, challenges dancers by harnessing their bodies 60 feet up in the air, tethered to airline cable. In this way, the wall of the building becomes the dancers’ floor and they perform perpendicular to the ground. The height, the dancers’ new relationship to gravity and the freedom to fly through the air are part of the beauty of the form.

This concert of 11 student works is the culmination of the four-week spring term aerial dance class. Choreographers Elliot Emadian ’17, Kitty Lambrechts ’19, Nora Devlin ’19, Bria Kelly ’20, Cloy Onyango ’20, Zach Dubit ’17, Katelyn Degnan ’17, Sarah Wagner ’17, Parker Kellam ’17, Lauren Kim ’17, Arthur Love ’18, Ashley Ooms ’17, Cayleigh Wells ’17 and other students spent four weeks learning aerial dance vocabulary, elements of composition, performance techniques and technical, production and artistic components of performance. They created new pieces of aerial dance choreography for themselves and their classmates.

Washington and Lee’s Aerial Dance

Directed by Jenefer Davies, associate professor of dance/theater, the aerial dance program at Washington and Lee is one of the first academic programs in aerial dance in the country. Consisting of aerial rope and harness, silks and bungees, W&L offers traditional 12-week courses, as well as the intensive spring term course in aerial rope and harness. In addition to formal courses, W&L students have traveled to England to study with a professional aerial company and professional aerialists have given master classes at the university.

“The four-week intensive term has given the students the opportunity to explore aerial dance deeply as performers and choreographers,” said Davies. “While four weeks is quite a short period of time to create a performance, the students embraced the challenge and exhibited a work ethic and depth of understanding that is commendable.”

ZFX, a professional company that rigs for national theatres, Broadway, opera companies and music festivals, will be on campus for the final week of spring term. In this performance, W&L students will be tethered to the roof of Wilson Hall and will perform against the building’s outside wall. ZFX will bring and set up the fly system on the roof of Wilson, rig the dancers and operate the electronic winches during the rehearsals and performance.

Tom Hackman, theater technical director at W&L, is the technical director for the show and Jessica Miller, costumer in the theater, dance and film studies department at W&L, and her work-study students designed the costumes.

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