Sat. Jun 3rd, 2023

Photo Credit: @wcu_udc
This coming weekend, WCU’s University Dance Company (UDC) will be taking the Madeleine Wing Adler Stage in their spring dance performance, “Vibrations. Featuring work by nine student choreographers as well as faculty advisor, Gretchen Studlien-Webb, the show will consist of 11 dances ranging from styles of jazz to contemporary to modern, and will include a duet and trio performance as well.

While each semester’s show is different and showcases a different array of student dancer ability and skill, student choreographers never fail in creating pieces that are detailed, meaningful and deliberate. A lengthy and time-consuming — yet rewarding — process, various student choreographers shared their experience creating for UDC’s “Vibrations.” 

UDC President Elizabeth Powell has been dancing with UDC for 10 semesters, and serving as president for two years. Graduating this coming May, her piece titled “hold on tightly. let go lightly.” serves as a letter to herself and other graduates on the experience of moving on from life at college and onto new experiences, despite the sorrow of departing with a part of your life that you love.

“It’s time to start a new chapter of my life, and there is never a way of knowing what life has to offer next. Although it has been such a large part of my life, it is time for the chapter with UDC to come to a close,” shared Powell.

Her dance centers around the idea of the hesitancy that can come with letting go, but the reward that comes out of accepting it. After weeks of work and a few bouts with choreography block, Powell portrayed this message through choreographing with a focus on physical touch between dancers. Throughout the dance, she describes, dancers are repeatedly drawn back to a line formation of which they show refusal to leave. This occurs until the end of the piece, when dancers accept the independence of moving away from the formation, symbolizing the process of letting go and moving on.

Powell has been extremely grateful for the opportunity to grow her choreographic skills in the past few years. “This is an experience that not everyone gets in life. It is rare that you get all of these resources — an amazing venue, lighting design, talented dancers, faculty guidance, for no cost while creating a piece,” she says. 

Alexa Lord, UDC Treasurer and member of the company for two years, has taken a slightly different approach to the creative process. Her piece, “Illusions of the Night,” is a jazz dance that is formulated through experimentation with dynamics and movement rather than around a specific theme. An energetic and captivating piece to the song “Black and Gold” by Sam Sparro, Lord has been motivated in her choreography to explore diverse types of formations, rhythms and movements.

Out of the choreographic process, Lord has felt most fulfilled by the sense of community that has flourished amongst her dancers. A process that entails the communal dedication of all involved, the dancers derive a sense of mutual accomplishment out of the hard work and overcoming of obstacles that comes with creating a piece.

Mary Lynch, UDC secretary in her sixth semester dancing with UDC has also pursued portraying a profound message through the art of dance. Her piece, titled “Do everything. Feel nothing.” tackles discussions around mental health and the notion of dissociation. Particularly, it revolves around the idea of feeling separated from your own body despite the world continuing on around you, until the moment that you are “reunited” with yourself.

An intense sensation being portrayed, Mary says the intent behind the piece has deeply challenged her dancers’ performativity. Hoping to convey the feeling of “nothingness” that is felt during dissociation, her choreography has encouraged the embracing of vulnerability and imperfections in the dance. The idea has fostered a much more natural approach to movement rather than stylized motion, a unique approach to choreography, but an appropriate one for Lynch’s goal of portraying humaneness in mental health. 

A particularly challenging part of the process for Lynch has been selecting music that best fits the desired effect of the piece. Music in dance guides the tone of the work and surely impacts the dancers’ ability to portray the message through movement. Creating her dance using two different pieces of music, finding a balance between the two that creates a concise message while still demonstrating the contrast between going into and coming out of dissociation has been a challenge.

After weeks of experimenting with the choreographic process, UDC looks forward to allowing their art to serve as a medium for conversation, contemplation and simply enjoyment. As Lynch says, “I want everybody that comes to this show to feel something when they see these pieces. I want the audience to welcome all their feelings with open arms and to go through the journey with us as they experience ‘Vibrations.’”

“Vibrations” will be performing at the Madeleine Wing Adler Theatre April 2729 at 7:30 p.m., as well at 2 p.m. on April 29. Tickets can be purchased at the door or online at

Olivia Schlinkman is a second-year Political Science major with minors in Spanish and Journalism.

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