Western is ringing in this year’s New Music, New Dance performance this Saturday, May 28.
New Music, New Dance is an annual tradition at Western. The event will showcase student-choreographed dance pieces, student-composed music, and a wide array of dancers, also mostly students.
Macy Chillingworth, a Western alumna, is participating this year as a dancer. “I started taking modern dance classes my third year of college,” she said. “Then I found out I could audition for this show, and I was super-excited.”
Chillingworth first saw New Music, New Dance as an audience member, but felt compelled to get more involved in the production because of how energizing she found it to be.
“It’s cool because it’s all original stuff,” Chillingworth said. “It’s all-collaborative and all-new.”
This collaboration crosses many different disciplines, Chillingworth said. Music students get involved by composing their own original pieces, which are then used by choreographers who usually come out of the Dance Program. Chillingworth said, however, “Anybody can choreograph. It tends to be the choreography or dance students, but you don’t have to be.”
The dancers too come from a wide range of backgrounds. While Chillingworth took dance classes through the Dance Program, she said that “even if you’re not a dancer,” you are welcome to audition and be a part of the production. “Not everyone who tries out is some high-level dance student,” Chillingworth said. “We even have some drama students this year.”
Because of the fact that faculty take absolutely no role in the production of the show, it can lead to a roller coaster of different pieces, said Nolan Dennett, the director of the Dance Program. Dennett said that students become very creative in their individual works.
Chillingworth said that the lack of professors “makes it less stressful as far as being critiqued goes.” She thinks that “the pieces end up being more creative and unique, and people are less afraid to take risks.”
Unlike all the other dance performances of the year, there is only one performance of New Music, New Dance. Chillingworth said that this adds to the intensity of that performance. “It’s all or nothing, so it’s crazy and scary, and you don’t get a second chance.”
Chillingworth also said that the rehearsal process that leads up to the performance can add to the rushed and energized atmosphere that surrounds New Music, New Dance. “We only get about a month and a half to practice, which isn’t that much,” she said. “Everybody is scrambling for time—it makes it more exciting.”
Typically within that month and a half, the choreographers meet as a group to discuss their working ideas for the pieces. “Some choreographers know exactly what they want to do; they have a vision,” said Chillingworth. “Others have absolutely no idea at all, and they work through it with the dancers throughout practices.”
During the rehearsal time, performers and choreographers meet about two times a week for one or two hours. The week before the performance, Chillingworth said that the members of each piece meet every night to run through their work. “It’s a pretty big time commitment, especially if you are a full-time student,” Chillingworth said. “And it’s a hard time of year, what with school winding down.”
For as large a time commitment that it is, Chillingworth highlighted the fact that students don’t get class credit for their participation in New Music, New Dance. “It’s not required for any class, so people are really doing it for the experience,” she said.
Chillingworth said that she thinks both people who want to continue dancing or choreographing as a career and those who are participating recreationally get a lot out of the experience. “It’s pretty ballsy to do it,” Chillingworth said, “and it’s more raw and unpolished, so people can explore with it. And I think students really connect with it because it is all done by other students.”
New Music, New Dance is running this Saturday, May 28 at 8 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center Concert Hall. Tickets are $4 for students and $5 for non-students. For ticket information, contact the PAC Box Office at extension 6146.