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Columbia College Student Performance Night showcases student and recent graduate work

Story by Kelsey Eckberg

May 18, 2009 – Columbia College senior Alicia Wilson mocked the social networking sites Facebook and MySpace in a dance she choreographed and performed April 17 during Student Performance Night at the college’s Dance Center.

Wilson, 22, danced with fellow student Sammy Spriggs in a selection entitled “Ummm… it’s like looking for a fire with a lighted match.” Their dance was about searching for a personal identity through the use of a computer monitor.

The quirkiest selection of the evening, the dance was an audience favorite and received a standing ovation.

Six weeks prior to the event, the Dance Center held auditions for the show, choosing nine of the 25 student choreographers who auditioned.

This show differed from previous Columbia shows by letting students take what they have learned in classes and apply it to a choreographic standpoint. All the showcased students in the performance were women this year.

Another dance in the show was presented by Gretchen Soechting, a junior in the dance department. She joined four other dancers in the piece that depicted two people struggling to keep each other close. The title, “We’ve lost it, haven’t we? (Convincing you to stay),” which was performed to music from The Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, injected a note of youthful energy to the show. It showcased Soechting’s emotions drawn from personal experiences along with inspiration she drew from the other dancers.

“I asked the dancers to access a somewhat dark and uncomfortable emotional place, and develop some movement material based off of those experiences. I then took their work and manipulated it to my liking, or in a way that seemed better suited to my purposes,”  said Soechting after the show. “I feel that, despite that the piece was inspired by my own personal relationship, it speaks to a universal human experience and response.”

The Student Performance Night was full of humor, unlike some other Columbia College dance productions in the past with darker undertones. Themes in the Student Performance Night related more to current pop culture, mocking things like Facebook and D.A.R.E.

“Over the Shoulder” was the piece that prompted controversy. Sarah Wattles, a senior, performed solo without music to her own choreography. She spoke and danced about D.A.R.E., or Drug Awareness Resistance Education.

Wattles’ piece was the only one accompanied by a program note, which said, “This piece takes a humorous look at the misgivings and misinterpretations that often follow youth drug education.” Wattles’ performance brought an edgy look to a topic that can be very off-limits.

Danielle Filetti, a dance student in the audience, said about the piece, “It was really powerful. It was something a lot of us could relate to because everyone our age has been through [the DA.R.E. program at school].”

One of the most beautiful pieces of the show was danced by Jenna Dillon, a Columbia graduate. With music by Louis Armstrong, Dillon’s “un jeune coeur” took a look at the color and beauty in nature. With three other dancers at her side, Dillon wore colored costumes and depicted a more graceful stage presence than the other performances.

The event was free, welcoming students and parents to see nine students showcase part of their work.

“Student Performance Night provides students with a forum to create work in a purely personal, self- directed manner,” said Soectching. “I think SPN is important because it grants students a great deal of artistic license, and of course, it’s a great way to show off the diversity of our student body.”

Any student or current graduate may participate in Student Performance Night. There are no age or grade restrictions. The event is held every April.

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