The Lewis & Clark Dance department will soon be showcasing the 28th annual Dance Extravaganza, otherwise known as Dance X. Dancers and choreographers alike have been working hard since September to prepare for the event.
Dance X student choreographers spend semesters taking classes to prepare for leading their own cast of dancers. For many, choreographing a Dance X performance is the goal of TH 499 Independent Study and acts as the pinnacle of their college dance career. Kate Sowerwine ’24 and Hoby Reece ’24 are two of this year’s choreographers. Each has a long history of dancing, which has informed their specific creative visions for the pieces they are crafting this semester.
“I am playing with the idea of space and how when we are in our own spaces how we act, and then once we are in a space with others how we act with each other. Each dancer will have their own specific color and then the lighting will coordinate to the color. So as the piece goes on, the colors will blend and the lighting will blend,” Sowerwine said. “It’s my first time choreographing in a while so it takes a minute to get into it, but I’m excited.”
Reece also shared his vision for the piece he is choreographing.
“I’m doing a crazy snake piece. It’s very narrative-driven and I’m experimenting with creating a piece that’s very attached to a plot arc, so I don’t want to give too much away,” Reece said. “But there is a queen of serpents and there are her subjects, and her subjects feel certain ways about her.”
Sowerwine and Reece have danced at LC for many years. Ahead of this year’s performance, they reflected on how the selection of pieces has differed from past years.
“I feel like this year there is a lot more music-based choreography, narrative-based choreography, conceptual choreography,” Sowerwine said.
Reece added that there is also more prop and scene usage, noting his own piece as well as two others that use objects onstage.
As the pieces grow and change, the dancers and choreographers have check-in points to support each other’s efforts.
“During the process we have showings, so the whole cast gets together and we show our progress,” Sowerwine said. “It’s really a good way for the dancers to be able to see each other because it’s not often that everybody is together as a cast, and for the choreographers to get feedback on their progress.”
Reece reflected on some of the commonalities between pieces he noticed during showings.
“I think everybody is at a little bit of a different place in their process still, but I feel like a lot of people are using improv-based generative structures,” Reece said. “A lot of us are getting movement and choreography from our dancers and what they produce in their own bodies.”
Sowerwine expanded on different approaches to choreographing.
“Some people do prefer to choreograph chronologically to the music, but then some people prefer to go around sporadically, find whatever they feel inspired by, piece it together in the moment and create a kind of skeleton,” Sowerwine said.
Both Sowerwine and Reece identify with the more spontaneous, intuitive choreography style.
“I’m a puzzle piece, putting bits together kind of person,” Sowerwine said. “I have two pieces of music that I plan to have flow into each other and I think whatever I’m feeling inspired by in the moment is what I go for.”
Reece recounted how his piecemeal style affects the rehearsal process.
“I also use little bits of the puzzle. Sometimes I will come to rehearsal with a phrase of choreography that I want them to learn and I have an idea of where it is (in the music),” Reece said. “We spent a long time working on our ending, so since we’ve been finished with that we’ve been going back to other parts before that in the piece and tying things together.”
When taking this approach, choreographers sometimes notice the resurfacing of similar movements later in the piece, creating continuity.
“It’s really fun throughout the process to see movements and little bits that naturally come back,” Sowerwine said.
Both Sowerwine and Reece noticed the influx of younger members into the dance program, and were heartened to see the growth of the department over their years at LC.
“Dance is a growing department, and this year it was encouraging to see how many people were interested in Dance X at the beginning of the semester,” Reece said. “There are a lot of people that are younger and freshmen that are in the show—like I have three freshmen in my cast.”
Sowerwine added that she only had one upperclassman in her cast.
“It’s cool to see that new crowd of people joining the dance department, and hopefully they can help it grow,” Reece said.
All the creative collaboration and exciting inspiration of Dance X started back in 1996 when Emily Stone ’97, a theatre major, began an experimental dance show in the Black Box. The first show featured only 12 students working as producers, choreographers, performers, costume designers and lighting designers. Stone’s experiment was met with an overflowing audience. Dance X took off, growing each year. Performances now occur on the Main Stage, instead of the much smaller Black Box, and students receive class credits for participating.
“It’s really great, over the time that we’ve been here, to see the department grow,” Sowerwine said.
Sowerwine and Reece have been instrumental in creating the newly formed dance concentration in the theatre major, where previously there was only a minor. They hope the major option will continue to bolster the department and ensure the longevity of such wondrous opportunities like Dance X for many more years to come.
Dance X is not the only option, though, if you would like to get involved in dance at LC. In the spring there is another show called Dance Y, put on by the LC Dance Company, as well as the opportunity to dance in senior thesis performances. Reece and Sowerwine are not only choreographing pieces in Dance X, but also creating a joint dance thesis.
“Auditioners beware: Kate and Hoby are making a dance thesis!” Reece said.
Dance X performances will take place on the Fir Acres Theatre main stage on Dec. 8 and 9 at 7:30 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. Tickets are available on the LC Theatre Department website.