Seniors to choreograph spring dance project

Senior choreography major, Corin Illsley explores the differences between high and low points in her dance piece. Photo by Helen Stoddard.

Maya Earls
Spectrum Editor

After a series of pass or fail trials held by dance faculty, nine VCU seniors will display their own choreographed pieces to the general public beginning on April 25.

The Spring Senior Project, held by the VCU dance department is a capstone that choreography majors need to complete before graduation. Students wrote proposals for their senior projects in the spring of 2013. After proposals were approved, the students had to present their idea as a complete dance movement. If they pass, the final step is producing a dance show for the general public the following year. Senior dance major, Corin Illsley said each step was filled with constructive feedback from her professors.

“They’ll say what worked out, what didn’t make sense, what they liked or didn’t like,” Illsley said. “It’s helpful, good criticism.”

Each senior holds their own auditions for dancers and are required to participate in another senior’s work. Together they decide the order of the performance and how lighting will affect the stage. The seniors are also responsible for their costumes and apply for the rights to use certain pieces of music. Illsley said the students receive little funding from VCU, so they relied on a Kickstarter for the rest of their financial needs. Having multiple areas of the production to focus on, Illsley said it was key to find dancers she could depend on.

“I tell my entire cast a million times, ‘I trust you,’” Illsley said. “I feel that gives them a sense of artistic freedom … they can still explore my movement but give their own flair to it.”

Illsley said the theme of her piece is exploring the difference between high and low, heavy and light. She also blurs ballet with modern dance structures. When she began the project, Illsley had a different theme in mind, but in the end she decided to create a dance for the sake of dance.

“I put leisurely movements, but (it’s) still sensual and finding your own quality,” Illsley said.

Chelsea Jones, senior choreography major decided her dance would focus on the biblical story of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus to Paul the Apostle. In the text, Saul is blind and needs the help of God to receive his sight again. Even though her dance is based on a biblical story, Jones said she wants to convey the broader idea.

“It’s less about the literal story and more about the universal message of being in a place of blindness and confusion and going to a place of clarity and understanding,” Jones said.

Jones expanded her theme from a project she organized her junior year. During the planning process, Jones said she sought the advice of multiple faculty members to make sure she could get as many opinions as possible. Her piece has gone in a different direction, since her junior year, but Jones said she is glad for the change.

“Instead of being more individual people with a struggle, it became more like partnering and helping one another,” Jones said.

The final showing of the senior dance project will be held April 25 and 26 at 8 p.m. at the Grace Street Theater on 934 W. Grace St. Tickets are $15 for the general public and $10 for students with a valid VCU ID.

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