UCDC brings dynamic performances to COSA

Skylar Haas

skhaas@ursinus.edu

This year, Ursinus ended CoSA with a multifaceted show and performance in which several students and faculty members came together with the assistance of professional artists and choreographers to put on UCDC’s Spring Concert. The show took place April 25-27 in the Lenfest Theater of the Kaleidoscope Performing Arts Center. Senior Donnay Burden helped choreograph the show.

Every semester, the Ursinus College Dance Company “provides an opportunity for students to work at a professional level with their faculty and guest artists currently working in the field,” according to the UCDC Spring Concert pamphlet.

One of the dancers, Jeniece Butts, ’20 was in all four of the dances this year. “Working with these choreographers is always a fun and enlightening experience” Butts said. “Each of the choreographers was very understanding of our schedules, injuries, skill level, physical flexibility/ capabilities…etc.” Kiela Brewer, class of 2020, said.

The first dance number was a tap dance. It was called “Don’t Worry If You Know It,” choreographed by Jenn Rose, a NYC based choreographer working in theater, concert dance, and film.

“This is my first year working with Jenn and she is a creative ball of energy. We only had a week to work with Jenn where we had rehearsals every day
for a week straight that were all between 4-6 hours. The rehearsals were always filled with fun energy that kept us going during these long hours,” Butts said. The music was all produced through the bells by the dancers in this piece.

Butts’ favorite dance was the tap dance. “It challenged me. Having to tap and play a desk bell at the same time required a level of multitasking that I have never been exposed to in a dance. It was also such a fun piece to perform because we were able to vibe with each other and the audience,” Butts said.

The next dance number was a contemporary/modern dance. Burden helped choreograph the modern dance “Psycho Trauma” “I have worked with Donnay since my freshman year and he always knows how to push me physically and emotionally through his pieces,” Butts said. “Donnay held two practices a week while the other two

held it once. With this, it was easier to input the routine into muscle memory. They were all equally effective though because of their belief
in the dancers to go above and beyond their challenging vision,” Brewer said.

This was a more intense and serious number. The dancers emerged in red outfits and moved in very dramatic motions. This piece told a story about Burden. “It is an excerpt from a larger project that [he] created that was performed at COSA. The piece is about how he dealt with this mental health, trauma, and PTSD throughout his life. The section in the UCDC show was focus[ed] more on trauma,” Butts said.

The third dance number was a hip hop piece and was called “Back to the Basics” and was choreographed by professional, Joshua Polk. He “comes to us from Philadelphia. This is my second year working with Josh and every rehearsal with him is always high energy. One of my favorite parts of working with Josh is that every time we learn a new move or style of hip hop we are always giving a little history background as well,” Butts stated.

“I genuinely favored the hip-hop piece the most, which may be a bias statement due to the fact that I had a solo within the routine. In all honesty, I have a strong liking for the 90s era within the black community, so it was amazing to even experience just a glimpse of what it would be like back then from a dancer’s point of view,” Brewer said.

The show ended with a number called African Dance Ensemble: Haitian Dance Yanvalou Suite. This was choreographed by Jeannine Osayande and Ira Bond, who run a regional performance arts company. According to the UCDC Spring Concert program pamphlet, “The Yanvalou movement…exemplifies the undulations of the Great Serpent. The Great Serpent, it’s your breath. What gives life. All the undulations starting from
the base of the spine moving up – it’s like the Hindu Kundalini. The Great Danbala serpent is our life force, a metaphor of our source of movement, energy and life.”

Butts has worked with Osaynde and Bond for many years now and recognized the value that they bring to Ursinus, “This is my third year working with them [Osayande and Bond] and they know how to push you as a dancer. African Dance is a style of dance that I hadn’t done until I got here so I am constantly learning something new from them. Their pieces always have deep roots within them which makes it so special because we get to explore a rich culture through their rehearsals and pieces,” Butts said.

A lot of time and effort went into rehearsing for this concert. “We have rehearsal weekly for each piece ranging from 2 hours a week to 4 hours a week for each piece specifically. When it comes time for the show we have about 4 days of tech rehearsal where we are in the theatre perfecting lighting cues, transitions, making sure the costumes are
in check, and overall preparing everything for the stage,” Butts said.

“Finally getting to perform these pieces is always so rewarding because so much time goes into creating what we love to do,” Butts said.

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