Friday, May 1 kicks off West Chester University’s annual ArtsFest weekend. With that comes the yearly dosage of Danza, a collaborative performance hosted by the university’s department of theatre and dance and the NOW Music Society, the campus’ student composer club. Members of the dance department set compositions crafted by NOW members to original choreography which will be performed during the concert. The music itself is presented either in the form of recordings by NOW composers and selected instrumentalists, or performed live by West Chester students. Danza itself will be held in the Mainstage Theatre at the E.O. Bull Center on Saturday, May 2, at 2:15 p.m.

The concept of the Danza concert was created by former West Chester student and former NOW Society president Andy Norman almost a decade ago. Norman’s vision was one to get NOW out of the Center for Music Technology in Swope and further integrated into university activities. Through contacting the department of theatre and dance, he found ways to create new works of art in choreographed compositions that put the minds of both composers and choreographers to the test while pushing the bodies of the dancers into motion. Its initial incarnation, Danza Symbiotica, was held each year on dates co-planned by the dance department and NOW, but currently finds a place as a part of WCU’s ArtsFest, as it has for the past few years.

NOW secretary and sophomore Joseph Harkins describes his approach to composing as one of a narrative, saying, “I’ve always approached ballet as an alternative way for the human body to tell a story, whether it be a reflection or philosophical thought or an actual plot, and I thought the best way I could write danceable music is to also write a story alongside it.” Harkins’ composition, “Out in the Schoolyard,” finds dancers in a coming-of-age arc as Charlie Brown-inspired jazz leaps and bounds over classic chord changes. He intentionally chose to leave out a vocalist or a section of spoken word, allowing the dancers’ movements to do the talking.
The actual process of organizing the performances can be quite rigorous, varying greatly from one student to the next, with choreographer-composer pairs working at their own rates. NOW member and freshman Daniel Ruggeri was constantly in touch to collaborate and add adjustments to his work. He says, “Bridget [Carlin] and I have had a productive and enjoyable experience working together on this project. We’d meet and exchange ideas, we kept up correspondence over email and Facebook, send videos of progress. We start full rehearsals with both dancers and musicians within the next two days, but both of us have conducted rehearsals with just our groups.” For Ruggeri and Carlin, the rehearsal process may still be underway, but all of their ideas have been finely tuned.[pullquote align=”center”]The concept of the Danza concert was created by former West Chester student and former NOW Society president Andy Norman almost a decade ago. Norman’s vision was one to get NOW out of the Center for Music Technology in Swope and further integrated into university activities.[/pullquote]

NOW Society treasurer and sophomore Dana E. Kacyon found himself continually reediting his piece, constantly keeping his performers in mind. “Courtney Byrne, who I was paired up with, would always give me suggestions or comments after I sent her a latest ‘edit’ of my ideas such as being careful with many different tempo changes, etc. Knowing little about dance, I still had to keep in mind the practicality of what she and I want to portray.” Kacyon’s experience is typical of both the NOW members and student choreographers: both have to work together to impart knowledge and techniques onto one another from their respective disciplines in order to create a syzygy of music and dance.

After a discussion with his choreographer left him wanting to create a routine where every movement felt significant, NOW member Jeffrey Holmes composed his piece, “Tony.” Holmes and choreographer Danielle Hetherington decided upon an industrial-influenced sound with a heavy emphasis on percussion to complement the movement of the dancers. “I tried to recreate an instrumental that sounded like Nine Inch Nails meets Dizzee Rascal using FL Studio as my Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). I created my drum kits using Native Instruments Battery 4 and the other synthesized sounds were created by me on my computer,” Holmes says. “As someone who deals primarily with sound collages and noise music, this is an entirely new experience for me. I’m overjoyed to have the opportunity to branch out like this!”

With such passion and excitement coming from the composers and their choreographer partners, Danza is a must-see performance. West Chester University’s ArtsFest lasts from Friday, May 1 to Sunday, May 3. Events featured during the weekend will be the university’s Criterions Jazz Ensemble, performing repertoire on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the Madeline Wing Adler Theatre. On Saturday at 1:00 p.m., the student a capella groups will be performing in the J.P. Adler Studio Theatre as a part of Pitch Perfect WCU, a celebration of vocal and a capella music. On Sunday, the Liberty Winds Youth Symphony will be performing a full set of music at 3:00 p.m. in the Madeline Wing Adler Theatre. For this event, tickets can be purchased from the Students Services Inc. office for $10.

Jeffrey Holmes is a third-year student double-majoring in English and philosophy. He can be reached at JH791223@wcupa.edu

Molly Herbison is a fourth-year student majoring in English. She can be reached at MH757997@wcupa.edu

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