VRDT’s annual showcase nears

VRDT’s annual performance at Poughkeepsie’s Bardavon Theater is the culmination of a year’s worth of work. The show is comprised of faculty and student-choreographed pieces that have been rehearsed, performed and critiqued. Photo courtesy of VRDT via Facebook
VRDT’s annual performance at Poughkeepsie’s Bardavon Theater is the culmination of a year’s worth of work. The show is comprised of faculty and student-choreographed pieces that have been rehearsed, performed and critiqued. Photo courtesy of VRDT via Facebook
VRDT’s annual performance at Poughkeepsie’s Bardavon Theater is the culmination of a year’s worth of work. The show is comprised of faculty and student-choreographed pieces that have been rehearsed, performed and critiqued. Photo courtesy of VRDT via Facebook

It is a universal truth that anybody can dance. To become a good dancer, however, can take years of classes and concentration, perform­ing countless pirouettes and ara­besques and assemblés. And here at Vassar, we have a fair share of great dancers. In fact, we have a whole company. The Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre (VRDT) will be per­forming at the Bardavon, displaying their wide array of talented dancers and choreographers.

This weekend, VRDT will be pre­senting its 34th Annual Bardavon Gala performances at the Bardavon Opera House in Poughkeepsie. These perfor­mances include pieces choreographed by both faculty and students.

VRDT, currently directed by resi­dent choreographer Steve Rooks, gives students the opportunity to further study the art of dance and provides numerous performance opportuni­ties. Every fall, the repertory holds auditions that will determine the pool of dancers they will use for the year. The dancers come from different backgrounds, which gives each one their own flair. It differs from HYPE and FlyPeople by creating a liaison between the Dance Department and Vassar stu­dents, which allows for everybody to learn and help each other develop their skills in an academ­ic and professional environment.

According to Assistant to the Director of VRDT Emily Martin ’18, “VRDT works with the same repertoire throughout the whole year. So, when we begin to prepare for the Bardavon in January, we’ve already performed the pieces we are preparing to present. Thus, the rehears­als are less about developing choreography and more about perfecting that choreography that we learned back in the fall. Of course, some changes are made, however rehearsals for Bardavon con­sist more of ‘cleaning’ pieces.”

This year’s gala will feature 12 student-cho­reographed pieces in addition to the faculty-cho­reographed dances. The styles range all over the place, containing mixtures of modern, jazz and ballet, to name a few. While there isn’t an overall theme to the dances, each individual piece does draw on its own images. Within these dances is a full scope of diverse topics, from alienation to 1950s housewives.

Martin elaborated on these performances, “VRDT is a modern dance-based company. Each year the company is divided in two and half of the company works with one modern dance pro­fessor and the other half works with the other modern dance professor. This is the one partic­ipation requirement of the company. Members can also choose to audition for the ballet reper­tory of the year.” She continued, “In addition to ballet and faculty choreographed pieces, we have student-choreographed pieces. It is in this area that the style of dance widens. We usually have a couple ballet-based pieces, some contemporary dance pieces and then pieces that could be con­sidered more modern.”

Many upperclassmen eventually choreograph­ing pieces of their own that meld together many styles of dance. Many professors also create piec­es in the styles that they teach.

Elaborating on how her new dancers ap­proached an unfamiliar style of dance, choreog­rapher and Adjunct Dance Instructor Abby Sax­on explained, “My dancers had to acquire a very specific jazz style, which involves body isolations, difficult coordination, as well as a way of connect­ing movements and body parts that is quite dif­ferent from contemporary dance or hip hop. For some of them this was new, and it took a while to really feel this way of moving as natural, yet they all mastered it. They are clearly having fun; they are charming, humorous and skillful too!”

Despite the choreographers planning out their pieces, input from the dancers also shaped the final product. Just as every writer has a partic­ular style in which they write, each dancer has a unique technique to their craft as well, which makes a performance truly their own. Through collaboration between the choreographer and the dancers, a piece can become something com­pletely different from what either imagined.

Describing the collaborative effort her piece “Ribbit” took, student choreographer Kelsey Greenway ’16 said, “In the making of this piece, I gave the dancers prompts, which they used to create a solo. The prompts ranged from, ‘draw a squiggly line,’ to ‘cradle a small animal,’ and ‘scare something.’ These movement phrases became the foundation of the piece, and made it personal to each of the dancers. I think that is why these 12 heterogeneous women could look like one entity on stage.”

“Everything inspires me to make a dance: mu­sic, the dancers and their qualities, a red-tailed hawk, my dog Koda, foxes and about any bird that flies.” Assistant Director of VRDT Kathy Wild­berger said about the creative energy that dance evokes and produces. “Rehearsals are wonderful when the cast of dancers is cooperative and pro­fessional. My dancers were and they also assisted and supported me during a very difficult time. I would say that dance can actually heal a person. For we dancers, the studio is home. We can leave everything outside the room and dance.”

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