Students choreograph arts-inspired concert

Dale Lavine
Contributing Writer

Even inches of slush and snow could not slow VCU’s student dancers this past weekend as the department of dance and choreography hosted its first student concert of the year, “Knots and Curls.”

Produced by both faculty and students, “Knots and Curls” was made up of 10 different performances during the two-night event. Each performance showcased a different style of dance, with each dance drawing inspiration from a multitude of personal experiences and worlds of art specific to each choreographer.

While no particular theme existed to govern the performances, the show does pluck at the common chord of versatility, according to choreographer and dancer Charlie Maybee, who had a hand in two performances.

Performed by VCU dance students, “Knots and Curls” features choreography inspired by personal experiences, as well as drawing from visual and written art works. Photo by Christian Martinez.

“There are a plethora of styles, genres and personal journeys that (were) presented,” Maybee said. “Some are tightly wound and tense like a knot and some are loose and flowing like a curl.”

Each piece was highly symbolic and a handful of them even pulled from actual pieces of art, both written and visual. For instance, Chelsea Jones’ piece, “Hands Won’t Heal,” was inspired by Mary Oliver’s 1984 Pulitzer Prize winning poem “The Rabbit,” and made use of a live vocal performance rather than an accompanying instrumentation.

Maybee co-choreographed a tap duet with partner Jones and said that the atmospheres of their projects were somewhat harmonious.

“We complement each other well in our tap piece because, stylistically, we’re very different,” Maybee said. He later explained that being involved in the performances of other dancers gave him a chance to explore “a new vocabulary of movement.”

One performer in particular, Kelly Oakes, faced the unique challenge of performing alone on stage. The performance, “Armor,” examined a very complex relationship between strength and vulnerability — something that carried over from the conception of the performance.

Transitioning from a small mirrored room to a larger stage with an actual audience proved to be more daunting a task than Oakes originally imagined.

“As the choreography and subject matter are extremely personal to me, the transition to the stage was exciting but also made me feel extremely vulnerable,” Oakes said. “(It) was a humbling experience, but I still tried to project the intimacy of the piece and how I felt rehearsing by myself to the audience.”

Oakes said that she seemed hopeful that the movement from room to stage would not pose as much a challenge on the second night of her performance.

Oakes also said she would like to continue digging deeper into her performances and strengthen her connection with the audience.

“My intent was to maintain an honest and pure performance as I transferred my piece to a much larger venue than where I choreographed and rehearsed it.”

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