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Student dance company prepares for spring concerts

As spring semester hurdles into the first set of midterms, so hurdling is the Willamette Dance Company (WDC) into rehearsals for its April concerts.

Seventy dancers were recently cast in the program, and rehearsal spaces around campus are being regularly filled with the sounds of creativity and collaboration and strides toward unified, expressive movement.

Program Director Dawn Hinrichs ’13 calls WDC an important and unique fixture on campus. Madeline Yoste ’11, MBA’12 founded the company in spring 2009. Before the establishment of WDC, Hinrichs says, Willamette lacked an extracurricular dance program. Now, five semesters later, the Willamette community is enthralled with it, and Smith Auditorium is filled to the brim for the each semester’s concert.

“It empowers students,” says Hinrichs, an anthropology major. ”They get to exercise agency in a creative way, and perhaps try something they never have before.”

WDC is completely choreographed, performed and produced by students. A meeting of choreographers takes place a few weeks before auditions in which students discuss music choice, style of dance, number of dancers and concept for the piece.

“The coolest thing about WDC is that the people in the club own the club,” Hinrichs says. “We welcome creative freedom — whatever choreographers want to bring to the table.”

The company then holds open auditions for a variety of styles ranging from African dance to classic ballet to modern hip-hop and contemporary genres.

Audition participants learn selected excerpts from different styles, and then rank their preferences based on the fragments they have practiced and the description by the student choreographers. A mutual selection is then made, and groups meet independently to rehearse. The concerts this spring will feature 14 routines.

“I was floored by last semester’s concert,” Hinrichs says. “I cannot wait to see what this semester will hold.”

Two concerts will be held on Friday, April 22, and Sunday, April 24, in Smith Auditorium. The performances are free of charge and promise to have something for everyone.

Other dance performances on campus

The Willamette Theatre Department is also hosting dance performances with its latest main-stage production, PeopleDance, a collection of faculty, student and guest artist choreography performed by Willamette dancers. The show continues through Feb. 26 in the theatre playhouse. Learn more: www.willamette.edu/arts/theatre

02-22-2011