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Young Choreographers' Showcase to highlight OU student-dancers' creativity, provide platform for self-expression

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Justin Rainey choregraphs

Ballet senior Justin Rainey choreographs a performance during the Young Choreographers' Showcase rehearsal Jan. 13.

OU School of Dance’s upcoming student showcase will celebrate young choreographers’ creativity and artistry Jan. 23–26. 

The Young Choreographers' Showcase is a collaboration between OU choreographers, dancers and designers, featuring 10 unique pieces choreographed by OU School of Dance graduate and undergraduate students. The showcase provides participants with creative control during the production process.

Choreographers were individually selected through a lengthy audition process facilitated by faculty coordinators Boyko Dossev, assistant professor of ballet, and Leslie Kraus, an assistant professor of modern dance, along with other faculty. 

From lighthearted dances to more serious pieces, the showcase is diverse in content. For modern dance performance junior Cameron Terry, having the opportunity to participate in the showcase is one of the reasons he came to OU. 

“My first passion is choreography, so when I transferred from the University of Texas last year, I wanted to set some work, be innovative and push the envelope,” Terry said. “I thought the Young Choreographers' Showcase would be the best place for me to do that.”

Terry has now choreographed for the showcase two years in a row and will be featured for his contemporary ballet inspired by popular music from the 1970s, such as “The Payback” by James Brown. The impact of his work at OU’s School of Dance in such a short amount of time is inspiring and provides confirmation that choreography is his calling, Terry said. 

“It means a lot to represent OU through dance because we hold a lot of weight in the art community,” Terry said. “Being a black male from Georgia, I feel like I can be a part of setting the tone for how we push the envelope here as I am forging my own path into the new decade.”

The showcase is also an opportunity for students to use choreography to comment on the world around them. Ballet performance and multiple disciplinary studies fifth-year senior Carly Preskitt said when she decided to audition for the showcase, she wanted to create a piece that allowed her to express her voice as an artist.

“I feel like a lot of times, as artists, we don't really have a platform to express our voices or to be heard by others,” Preskitt said. “The Young Choreographers' Showcase is definitely just that, as it gives us a platform to express ourselves.”

Preskitt’s piece is called “interitus,” which is the Latin word for ruin or destruction. Alongside her student sound designer Alexandar Leasau and student visual artist Montserrat Ruffin, Preskitt created a piece about all of the ways humans destroy society and the environment.

“My piece is a balance between the ability of humans to destroy things but also the ability for them to change and to make our world better,” Preskitt said. “I'm hoping audiences can take that message away and know that they too have a voice and the power to make a difference.”

Unique messages like the one found in Preskitt’s dance make the showcase so remarkable, Dossev said. The showcase provides choreographers with the opportunity to explore and convey their deepest thoughts and beliefs, all in the safety of the Elsie C. Brackett Theatre. 

“Here, there’s no critics from places like the New York Times, the Washington Post or the Boston Globe that can either build or destroy your career,” Dossev said. “The showcase is a wonderful opportunity, as choreographers can take risks and just go ahead and do everything.” 

As both dancers and choreographers, Dossev said, these students have been extremely vulnerable in sharing their choreography. In this way, Dossev has not only been able to teach his students, but he has also allowed himself to be taught by them. 

“This process has most definitely been one of mutual learning,” Dossev said. “It's a new beginning with each choreographer’s piece, reminding me of the innocence one has in each dance they create and all of the learning and relearning you do as you choreograph.” 

As the performance approaches, the young choreographers hope to emphasize the importance of dance, both as an art and an education. Terry is specifically hopeful that this showcase will inspire other young dancers to pursue choreography.

“When you pass down artwork, it's not always about showing people the steps, but it's giving them a legacy and an opportunity to grow,” Terry said. “Dance is transcendent and should be about giving your essence and passing the torch to the next generation of young dancers.” 

The Young Choreographers' Showcase opens at 8 p.m. Jan. 23 with additional performances at 8 p.m. Jan. 24–25 and at 3 p.m. Jan. 26 in the Elsie C. Brackett Theatre at 563 Elm Ave. 

Tickets range from $20 to $25 and are available online, by phone and at the OU Fine Arts Box Office. Discounted tickets are available for students and faculty for $10.

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