A unique collaboration between actors, dancers, and technicians will culminate in this semester’s Ursinus College Dance Company (UCDC) performance of “Once Removed.” “Once Removed” is an interdisciplinary performance piece featuring theatre, dance, and video art. It will be directed and choreographed by assistant professor of dance, Jeanine McCain, who recently returned to Ursinus after being on sabbatical last semester. This UCDC performance will mark McCain’s tenth involvement in productions of the dance company’s semiannual show.
“Once Removed” is notably different from other UCDC shows in a variety of ways—one of the most striking being that one section of the cast of actors is compiled of students enrolled in the Theatre Movement course.
McCain explained that the inspiration for this course, the likes of which have never been taught at Ursinus College before, comes from her own background in both theatre and dance.
She said, “To me, [theatre and dance] are not different things. And so I was really interested in working with actors on more of a physical level. And as a department, we decided this would be a useful class . . . The class is based in professional movement training techniques like movement for performers . . . Oftentimes, what gets missed in actor-training is the body . . . We think about the words, we think about the voice a lot, we focus on what the character is thinking or doing, and often it gets lost in the head. This class tries to bring it into the body as a form of expression and, whether it’s the actors’ or the dancers’, we’re all sort of working from the same instrument: We just approach it in slightly different ways.”
In addition to the section of the show performed by students in the Theatre Movement class, there is a dance section made up entirely of dance majors and minors.
Mya Flood, a senior theatre major who is taking the Theatre Movement class, has not been a part of UCDC before. When asked about her favorite part of being involved with the show she responded that it was “connecting with the individuals I work with.”
She added, “The class is about] getting in tune with your body and the range of movements you can make . . . It’s about challenging myself to test the limits of what my body can do.”
Senior theatre and English double-major David Walters summarized the Theatre Movement course, “[It’s] a combination of yoga, dance, and mindfulness. But then, as you get further into the semester, it becomes more about rehearsal and improvising for the piece. [The piece has] got strong themes of home and relationships to space. It’s pretty abstract, but I love it. It’s cool.”
Sophomore Claire Hughes, a double-major in theatre and media and communication studies, describes the show as “a holistic [expansion of] our body awareness [practiced] through different techniques.”
The major theme of “Once Removed” looks at how we occupy space and how those environments shape who we are both physically and culturally.
McCain explained the concept of the show. “[It] started with me and my experiences moving from the West Coast and the Rocky Mountain regions to the East Coast. I noticed that my body felt really different when I was on the East Coast, and I started thinking about places I’ve been, places I’ve lived, and how I feel physically different when I’m in different places to the point where I feel like I can’t control how I [move] . . . So much of our identity is in how we move and how [we] feel from the inside out . . . I started thinking about a sense of place and how our landscapes and our environments truly shape who we are . . . I’ve come to believe that we are shaped by our environment.”
During the Theatre Movement class, McCain had her students share their stories and memories of how their bodies have felt in different landscapes. “All of those body experiences have become part of the piece,” she said.
“Once Removed” will be performed on Thursday, Nov. 16, Friday, Nov. 17, and Saturday, Nov. 18 at 7:30pm in the Blackbox Studio Theatre. The show runs approximately one hour without intermission. There will be a talkback with the performers and director immediately after Thursday night’s performance. Seating is limited; be sure to reserve your ticket by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets are five dollars for students and seniors and eight dollars for the general public.