By Noemi Vargas, May 11, 2021
Cal Poly Pomona’s Theatre and New Dance Department took the lead as it hosted the 2021 spring dance concert virtually in response to ongoing pandemic regulations.
The department adapted the spring dance concert into a three-day event hosted through ShowTixs4U and Instagram. Each day of the event consisted of a different theme: “Dances for Choice,” “Dances for Change” and “Dances for Chance.”
“I think the ultimate goal of the dance concert was to inspire the audience with choice, chance and change,” said event participant Alondra De Leon, a fourth-year communication student. “All these three things interact in our lives and that’s what inspired me because I could identify with each theme in a different way. It really helped me realize that we’re all connected even though we’re separated through screens. We could get online to see each other, support each other and feel connected.”
To replicate the feel of an in-person concert, the first event of the series was hosted on Instagram with an interactive approach. The 60 students who attended were able to comment live and choose songs for the performers to dance to. Music selections ranged from K-pop to pop with dancers performing in contemporary and modern styles.
On the second and third day, the shows premiered on ShowsTix4U where attendees purchased tickets before attending the concert. The shows presented a collection of dance videos with voiceovers telling different stories.
Some of the dances included were recordings of Zoom calls where student performers danced in various locations, like their living rooms and flower fields, as they coordinated with one another.
Dancers were encouraged to seek inspiration from quotes or personal experiences that connected to the theme they were a part of.
Mary Kapella, a second-year theatre student, participated in the second day of the event, “Dance for Chance,” and shared her personal experience through a voiceover. She shared her gratitude and explained that she relates to the theme tremendously, given her trajectory in coming to the United States from Africa.
“It just took me back to my journey, experiences and all the things that made me take chances —like learning a new language. That was chance for me,” Kapella said.
She added that she saw this event as an outlet for cultural diversity. Everyone involved came from different backgrounds, therefore projecting different interpretations of dance and acting.
“It was really interesting to see the dance program be very experimental in trying to demonstrate how dance is actually more than just the moving body, which is really great for our campus because we have students that come from all over,” said Gayle Fekete, the event’s artistic director who is also a professor and the head of dance for the department. “Dance can be a social catalyst, can be a healing practice, can be just simply community and people coming together.”
Fekete added that though the dance was coordinated by faculty, students were able to collaborate creatively throughout the event. The creative direction was showcased through contemporary choreographies and storytelling.
In preparation for the event, Fekete announced the spring concert at the beginning of the semester and invited all students to participate. Meetings to discuss the vision of the event were held and students checked in with the event directors for updates on choreographies and other video clips being included.
When the time came to execute the performance, students had to perform and find a stage of their own while collaborating with other dancers and actors.
Student performers like De Leon reflected on her preparation and her inspirations behind her dance.
“I would try to just get influenced by different things,” De Leon said. “If I would get burned out with writer’s block, I would try to influence myself through different types of music, Instagram or TikTok to see different styles of dance and what other people are doing.”
She also emphasized the impact of adapting to a virtual setting while participating in the first event, “Dance by Choice,” on Instagram with a live audience.
“It gave the audience the opportunity to be more involved. I really enjoyed it because I felt like I could interact on it, so I was commenting on the live streams and just hyping them up. I really enjoyed it and I think it also really relates to ‘Choice’ because in social media you can do whatever you want,” De Leon said.
Though the participating students and faculty missed the in-person interactions, they shared that they were able to focus on the message that they were trying to get across while making the event as engaging as possible.
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