Students and faculty in Tennessee’s only full dance degree program are bringing themes of peace, freedom, protest, technology and identity to the screen with special guests and a special guest artist at their virtual Fall Dance Concert, “Screendance.”
It’s now available on the Department of Theatre and Dance‘s YouTube channel and to watch above.
The evening’s performances by MTSU’s pre-professional company showcase faculty, student and guest choreography and feature dancers of diverse abilities, thanks to this fall’s collaboration with guest artist Silva Laukkanen and six different dance groups, including members of the Borderless Arts Tennessee troupe.
A grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission allowed MTSU dancers to work remotely with Laukkanen, Borderless Arts and Art Spark Texas for three weeks to create a dance focusing on peace.
The result, simply titled “Peace,” honors the late arts education activist Jean Kennedy Smith, founder of VSA, an international organization on arts and disabilities.
Laukkanen, director of integrated dance for Austin-based Art Spark Texas, called the experience with the MTSU and Borderless Arts teams “wonderful” and a “strange juxtaposition” of new opportunities to collaborate, create and dance together with dancers of all abilities.
“On the one hand I feel happy and excited to see the work, but, on the other hand, I feel the sense of loss that we are not in a big dance space all together moving, talking, exchanging ideas, and dancing,” Laukkanen writes in a blog post on Art Spark Texas’ website.
“On the plus side, I’m getting more used to this virtual platform, and I recognize the accessibility and what it has done to break isolation for people with disabilities. There will be a virtual component in our work from this point on, but I’m also looking forward to being in-person in the dance and creative spaces with people.”
Art Spark Texas and Borderless Arts Tennessee provide and promote arts programming, inclusivity and accessibility in schools and communities across each state.
Additional performances in this fall’s MTSU dance concert, presented by MTSU Arts and captured on video by students in Department of Media Arts professor Bob Gordon’s advanced multi-camera TV production course, include:
• “Dance of Freedom,” choreographed by associate professor Meg Brooker, MTSU Dance Theatre director. The dance focuses on voting rights and social activism, using historic choreography and paying tribute to dancer Florence Fleming Noyes and her 1914 solo “Dance of Freedom” embodying the women’s suffrage struggle.
• Dance lecturer Jade Treadwell’s “Fists in the Air,” inspired by the power of gestures like the iconic human-rights demonstration at the 1968 Olympics medal ceremony, the peaceful protests from the 1960s U.S. civil rights movement and the Black Lives Matter events of today.
• Dance instructor Laurel Walker’s “Leitmotif,” a continuation of a fall 2019 dance exploring humans’ obsession with technology. This presentation depicts humanity’s need to loosen the tether from their devices.
• “Clique,” created by MTSU alumnus and adjunct instructor Aaron Allen Jr., a two-part work inspired by the New York underground ball scene in the 1970s and 1980s that explores identity, community and mourning in the House dance style.
• Student choreographer Joshua Dailey’s “Intuitions,” which reflects on the challenges faced during quarantine and the virtual outlets we use to manage our busy minds.
MTSU offers the only full Bachelor of Science degree in dance at any public university in Tennessee.
The degree track, launched in fall 2017, allows students to study a combination of different levels of technique classes, dance history and theory, theories around kinesiology, anatomy and healthy training for the body, as well as choreography and improvisation.
One course of study focuses on performance and choreography, while the other track concentrates on pedagogy and practice.
For more information about MTSU’s dance program, part of the university’s Department of Theatre and Dance in the College of Liberal Arts or the MTSU Dance Theatre, call 615-904-8051, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.mtsu.edu/dance.
— Gina E. Fann (email@example.com)