Arts & Culture / Featured / Mosaic / November 11, 2015

Terp choreographers hit the stage

Cassidy Jones

Senior Cassidy Jones believes that in order to derive meaning from dance or life, you must slow down and focus.

Jones’ contemporary quintet, “Inert Intention,” considers the contrast between fluidity and isolation with regard to people and the world around them. Her first and last time choreographing, “Inert Intention” will be the only dance performed to a spoken word piece, specifically Alan Watts’ “On Nothingness.”

“What I’ve taken from it, and what I apply in my dance, is that we occupy space and we occupy time, but what makes it meaningful is our intention,” Jones said.

“Inert Intention” will be a departure for Jones in more ways than one. Watts was famed for popularizing Eastern Philosophy in the West, but Jones, an Environmental Studies and International Relations double major, has very little interest in philosophy. The performance will also incorporate elements of theatre, a discipline that Jones once pursued but has since lost interest in.

“There are moments when [the dancers] are not moving and they stay there and that’s a moment to grasp their intention and to fill the moment with intention … I think that’s my theatre background coming into it: an actor crosses the stage, but why?” asked Jones.

The piece is closing the formal showing of Vitality, and Jones hopes to inspire her audience to question their intentions and the value of their time.

“If there’s anything I’ve learned at Knox it’s how to pick and choose how to use my time … how to fill my personal time doing things that live up to what’s really important to me, rather than doing them meaninglessly,” Jones said.


 Tatiana Perez

Sophomore Tatiana Perez’s “Socks” owes its conception to a purple sweater.

“Back in highschool, my best friend gave me a purple sweater and I wore it throughout winter break and we hung out together the whole time. And so every time I put that on now, I remember everything we did and everything I smelled and felt,” Perez said.

This gift became the inspiration behind Perez’s contemporary sextet, “Socks,” which explores nostalgia to the tune of Tom Rosenthal’s “Christmas Quiet.” Perez hopes “Socks” will excite people about returning to their families and close friends during winter break.

“I think when people watch the piece they’ll read it through facial expressions … When [the other dancers] asked how our faces should be, I told them ‘Don’t be sad, but think about remembering,” Perez said.

Perez included a tongue-in-cheek dedication of “Socks” to the beloved Harry Potter character Dobby the House Elf; her addendum illustrates the whimsical nature of the piece. Wanting to maintain a light-hearted atmosphere, Perez crafted the choreography with audience accessibility in mind.

“[I am] keeping dance as human as possible and not only approachable for people who have been dancing as long as I have,” Perez said.

Much of Perez’s “pedestrian” choreography was inspired by conversations overheard at parties in which people claimed that they couldn’t dance, an assertion Perez took issue with.

“All you need is your body to dance, even if it doesn’t look good. Dance is very human because movement is human. I like the idea that anybody can dance,” Perez said.


 Sammie Zimay

As the most recent installment in the James Bond franchise, “Spectre,” hits theatres, senior Sammie Zimay strives to distill the spy’s allure through jazz.

Zimay’s piece is set to “The Long Way Down” by Robert Delong, and shares the same name. Featuring eight women, the jazz ensemble’s goal is to encapsulate the suave sexiness that characterizes the MI6 agent.

“James Bond is a very manly-man: he’s attractive and a spy … He’s also a flirt and I wanted to show that women are like that too. I think it’s fun for women to be able to claim that kind of a character, too,” Zimay said.

Zimay started dancing at the age of four, and has delved into a variety of styles since then. She chose to choreograph a jazz piece in part to expose the Knox community to a greater variety of dance forms, but also to pay homage to a childhood dance instructor.

“He was a very inspirational teacher. He was tough on us, but he was the one who really helped me develop as a dancer and realize that this is something I’m really passionate about,” Zimay said.

Zimay envisions “The Long Way Down” as a vehicle to bring the espionage genre into the 21st century, reclaiming it in the name of strong women.

“I have this montage throughout the piece of moments where the dancers are looking out at the audience and directly acknowledging them … And I think that is in itself an empowering thing,” Zimay said.


Angela McNeal 

Senior Angela McNeal described her piece, “Drifting,” as something precious, to be cradled and cherished.

McNeal, who currently serves as the president of both Terpsichore and the Knox College Dance Squad, hopes to explore the significance of seemingly innocuous human encounters throughout a person’s life in her contemporary quintet. A slow version of “Waves” by Mr. Probz will act as the backdrop for McNeal’s piece.

“People are in our lives for a reason, and there are some people that we come across, that we may not even know, who can have an impact on our lives. So we should just be more aware of the people around us,” McNeal said.

Although McNeal has been dancing since she was in the 2nd grade, her formal dance training is not considerable. Lacking such instruction, McNeal credits her accomplishments and accolades to the emotional intensity that pervades her movements.

“It’s the difference between when you’re just dancing the steps, and when you’re fully engaged with your body and your emotions,” McNeal said.

McNeal’s empathy is also evident in her choreography process. She established personal connections with dancers through improvisation, writing exercises and discussion. This allowed McNeal to produce choreography that suited the strengths and weaknesses of each dancer.

“It gives the dancers an opportunity to bond with the piece that they’re in … to find a personal connection within the dance. That’s what I want, because I’m so emotional. So that way, when it comes together, it’s all one accord, and it shows,” McNeal said.


Elise Goitia

Sophomore Elise Goitia’s “Handmade” will unite two of her passions: psychology and storytelling.

Goitia, who is pursuing a double major in Creative Writing and Psychology, will be performing a Lyrical solo entitled “Handmade,” which portrays an individual’s struggle to reclaim herself from the insidious possession of drug addiction.

“You lose your body, you lose yourself to hard drug addiction, and it’s terrifying,” Goitia said. “I really wanted to portray the fight that occurs between the initial loss of a part of yourself to the realization that you are a prisoner to this addiction.”

Goitia was studio trained for over a decade and has explored a wide variety of dance styles including ballet, tap, hip-hop and jazz. She believes that each genre of dance exposed a heretofore-unknown personal facet.

“Ballet teaches you poise and grace, but for me it really taught me how to have respect for others and to have respect for my own body,” Goitia said.

“Handmade,” which will be accompanied by Alt-J’s song of the same name, is technically intense and arduous. Goitia strived to push her body to its limits to convey the power addiction can wield over a person’s body. She feels that the nature of this story necessitates a solo performance.

“In the end, it is about one person deciding that they’ve had enough of this and that they want to fight for their life again,” Goitia said.


Morgan Tonner

Senior Morgan Tonner’s “Queen” was inspired by Queen B herself, but the hip-hop piece pays homage not only to BeyoncŽe, but to the women in the audience in need of a confidence boost.

Tonner began exploring dance at the end of her freshman year, making the Terpsichore Collective her first introduction to dance culture. Her experience has been extremely positive.

“[I was amazed by] how they’re able to open their arms and cultivate this love of movement for newcomers … and just motivating them to find their own way in dance. It’s just a beautiful environment,” Tonner said.

“Queen” is set to a mix of five BeyoncŽ songs and will feature seven dancers including Tonner. She was inspired to create her piece while listening to writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “We Should All Be Feminists” speech as it appears in BeyoncŽ’s “Flawless.” In the excerpt, Adichie discusses constrained female sexuality in contrast to the sexual freedom of men. Tonner believes that this hypocrisy is especially evident in dance culture.

“Dancing, and being sexy and being proud of who you are should never be seen as taboo, and it should never be something that would make other people uncomfortable,” Tonner said.

“Queen” is upbeat and lively, but Tonner hopes that the performance will inspire more than dancing in her audience.

“I just want to show people that anyone can do this … I want them to leave feeling incredible, feeling that they can love themselves and it isn’t a crime,” Tonner said.


Alexandra Byerly, Staff Writer

Tags:  choreography dance inspiration performance terpsichore terpsichore dance collective

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