This weekend I had the amazing opportunity to perform in a dance show on Allegheny’s Campus, with Antaeus Dance. Several Allegheny students returned a couple of weeks before classes began to be a part of a Summer Dance intensive hosted each year by the college and run by the members of Antaeus. Ballet and tap classes in elementary school, and one class in modern dance at Allegheny were my only experiences in dance prior to participating in the intensive. I learned so much during those two weeks in August. The intensive helped me to bring our the dancer I have always had inside myself, I definitely have plans to keep dancing for the rest of my life.
During the intensive we had the opportunity to spend a little extra time in rehearsals to learn the two pieces we performed this weekend. I was unsure of what to expect during the process of learning and creating these dances, especially being someone who had very little experience. I felt nervous that I would be unable to do some of the choreography or not be able to remember it once we learned it. Learning the dances was definitely hard work, and some days it was easier to pick up the choreography than others, but in the end I was surprised at how good of a dancer I actually am. Once the intensive was over the groups that learned the pieces met about once a week to practice the dances and make them the best we could.
This weekend all of our work was finally put on the stage for our community to enjoy. On Friday night we went to Montgomery (the dance building on campus) and had a technical rehearsal. We did a short cue-to-cue so that the lights were in the correct places for each piece. Once that was finished we did a run through of each dance with lights. Having a chance to see what the lights were going to look like made me excited for the performance.
On Saturday, Antaeus did a master class that anyone in our community was invited to attend. This class was the warm up for all the dancers who were in the performance as well. One of our choreographers form the intensive, Desmond, ran the class. Working with him and the other dancers that afternoon took me right back to the afternoon classes of the intensive, I really enjoyed the technique and composition classes we were able to do.
After the master class I had about two hours before my call time. I took this time to eat dinner and relax. The two dance pieces we were performing were very emotional so I wanted to make sure I was in the right state of mind for the show. At 7pm I went to Montgomery to meet with the other dancers, and get ready for the performance.
My fellow dancers and I were not performing until the second half of the show so we kept our street clothes on so that we could sit in the audience and watch Antaeus perform their firs two pieces. They were really beautiful compositions. The first one used chairs, and had a background of chairs sitting in various positions and candles, and the second used a musical track the had spoken words instead of singing or just instrumentals. It was truly a moving experience to see those pieces performed, and to watch those who taught me during the intensive dancing.
At intermission we all headed to the green room to get into costume and ready for our time on the stage. One of the other members of Antaeus who choreographed one of our pieces, Joan, talked to us before we walked up to the performance space. She wished us merde, which is what they say in dance to wish each other good luck. It is bad luck to wish performers in theatre good luck, so we say “break a leg”, and in dance wishing the dancers to break a leg is bad luck, so they say merde.
We all walked to the wings of the stage and waited for the piece before ours to finish. The dancers bowed and exited the stage. Our warming lights came up, and then there was blackout. In the dark we quietly took our places. The music began and the lights came up, and we began dancing the piece. It felt really amazing to dance under the lights, and be on stage in front of an audience. I am a stage manager in the Allegheny College Playshop Theatre so I am usually behind the scenes and not a performer. This role reversal was very refreshing and enjoyable, I not only have more respect for the performers I work with but I also would love to perform more in the future.
Once the first piece ended, we took our bows and exited the stage to get ready for our next piece. A quick costume change and it was back to the stage waiting to go on. Once again the other dancers exited the stage, there was a change in the lights, and we took our places. This was the final piece of the performance, and as I was dancing it I was transported to a different place, I was not focused on what I was doing I was just there in the moment dancing, which felt spectacular.
It was really rewarding to work so hard on something and get to show that work off. Everyone I talked to who watched the performance really enjoyed it. This was most definitely an experience I will never forget, and I have been inspired to continue dancing for a long time. I look forward to the next time I get to join a group of dancers on the stage.