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OU School of Dance hosts annual student-led Young Choreographers' Showcase

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young choreographer showcase

Photo by Drew Lotter from OU Dance Facebook page.


OU’s School of Dance hosted the annual Young Choreographers' Showcase —  the only OU dance production entirely choreographed, designed and performed by students — once again.

In the production, 12 student choreographers collaborated with lighting design students from the Helmerich School of Drama to create a variety of performances. Ranging from classical ballet to contemporary and modern dance, the showcase provides students an opportunity to collaborate and perform on a professional, main-stage level. 

Students begin choreographing and casting their pieces as soon as the fall semester begins. After each piece is cast, choreographers are allotted 3 hours of rehearsal time each week. In November, the School of Dance holds a judging process to determine which choreographers will present at the final showcase, requiring each piece to be 75 percent complete. Those selected rehearse until the end of the fall semester. 

The showcase is scheduled just 10 days into the spring semester, and the choreographers, performers and designers hit the ground running as soon as they return from winter break. The days leading up to the premiere are spent perfecting spacing on stage, tweaking choreography in the studio, and putting final touches on lighting and stage design. The result is a four day, main-stage production in the Elsie C. Brackett Theatre. 

Maggie Schoenfeld, modern dance performance junior, said the student choreographers are granted full creative liberty to choose and cut their music, choreograph the dances and help decide which dancers perform in their pieces each year. 

This year, Schoenfeld choreographed “67.” 

She said it was based in an alternate universe where nothing makes sense. She chose Frank Sinatra's 1967 studio session of “The Girl from Ipanema” as her soundtrack, wanting something that wasn’t “exactly normal.” She wanted to throw the audience off. 

In the studio recording, Schoenfeld says “you can hear, in the beginning, Frank Sinatra talking and the musicians chattering,” and “there’s a couple alterations, and then the song plays through once and abruptly stops, that starts over again — a whole reset, and it starts again.” 

Even before attending OU, Schoenfeld said it was one of her goals to create a piece for the Young Choreographers' Showcase. 

“This year, I finally got to do it,” she said. 

She participated as a performer her freshman and sophomore year and undertook double duty this year, also performing in Bethany Ruble’s “Mammoth.” 

Mary Ann Mayer is another relatively new choreographer. She is a third year MFA student studying ballet and is also pursuing a certificate in arts administration and entrepreneurship. 

Mayer choreographed “Tendrils” as part of her thesis work on collaboration and creativity, and the entire developmental process and production will serve as a case study. 

“This project explores a non-hierarchical collaboration of dance, music and painting,” Mayer wrote in an email to The Daily. 

She worked with a Music Ph.D. candidate to create an “original suit of tone poems” and her daughter, a visual artist, to bring the concept together. 

“The conceptual inspiration for our work came from a photographer’s statement on the description of memories and emotions that are evoked from family portraits,” wrote Mayer. “We worked in tandem; each creating sketches of music, dance and painting that reflected different emotions. We were inspired by each other as our work unfolded.” 

Schoenfeld and Mayer both wanted to get involved in the Young Choreographers' Showcase because they were interested in the making process and the unique nature of the production. 

“It is a very student centric work of performance,” Schoenfeld said. “It’s all student choreographers. We are all creating our own works, we make our own choices about what the piece is about, what the lighting is going to look like, what the costumes are going to be. It’s our own show, and it’s a main-stage show.” 

Mayer echoed this. 

The Young Choreographers' Showcase offers all OU student choreographers an opportunity to learn and grow as artists and for their work to be presented in a professional theater setting,” she wrote. “(It) gives students an opportunity to present creative ideas in a fully realized performance. The parameters set by the logistics of bringing this production to the stage challenge each choreographer in a unique way.”

Rachel Hubbard is a senior English literature major and serves as The Daily's assistant enterprise editor.

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