Theatre and Dance Performances go Digital

Posted on December 16th, 2020 by

The Theatre and Dance department used investigative research practices to transition this semester’s performances to a digitally streamed format. These performances were streamed in the first week of December and will be shown again before Christmas. 

 

Shared Space: In Flux 

 

Directing a virtual dance concert presented challenges and opportunities for students Hannah Saunders ‘22 (Biology and Dance) and Amanda Hoffman ‘22 (Biology, Geography, and Environmental Studies).  Shared Space: In Flux is a compilation of dances specifically created for the camera. 

 

Melissa Rolnick (Theatre and Dance Co-Chair) is the faculty advisor for Shared Space. The choreographers for Shared Space include Katie Rhoten ‘21 (Psychology Honors and Dance), Lillian Kline ‘22 (Theatre & Dance), Katie Odell ‘22 (Communication Studies), Sam Tonjes ‘21 (Exercise Physiology and Dance), Kathryn Hicks ‘21 (History), Tessa Longshore ‘23 (Dance), and Jack Fischer ‘21 (Dance). The production also included 11 dancers who assisted with choreography and filming. 

 

The trial and error of choreographing and directing dance for the camera is a type of investigative research. The choreographers learned to use GoPro cameras and iMovie software for filming and editing their performances.

 

Hoffman commented on these changes saying, “Most of us have experience choreographing pieces, we’ve all danced in a lot of pieces, so we have a lot of experience in that aspect of creation. The way that everything worked out this year, choreographers were in charge of learning how to film the piece, edict the piece, edit music, do your own lighting, and do it a lot more independently.” 

 

Dance as a three-dimensional art form is limited to a single viewpoint for film. Saunders commented on this change saying, “It was fun to film from all different angles and change the perspective of the audience.” To enforce safe social distancing, the choreographers and performers also had to shift away from partner work and crossing paths which is a big part of dance culture according to Saunders. 

 

Saunders and Hoffman were selected as directors for Shared Space following the Spring 2020 semester. There were many uncertainties with how the show would be presented. As the Fall semester progressed, it became clear the show would have to be completely digital with no contact between performers. “It was up to the directors to curate the arch of the evening,” said Rolnick. 

 

Rolnick is incredibly proud of her students for embracing new challenges. She reflected, “Anytime you dive into a new research or creative process there is always some fear and anxiety, and yet they all have had experience in the creative process so they knew they just had to dive in. I think it was a huge growing process for all of them.”

 

Hoffman was very impressed with the final product saying, “It turned out to be a really great show. All the dances are very different from what live performance ends up being, but I think they’re all pieces to be very proud of. I’m very happy with how everyone stepped up and conquered the problems and the challenges, and made a great show.” 

 

Theatre Gallery: Six Short Digital Projects

 

 

The Theatre Gallery: Six Short Digital Projects was advised by Henry MacCarthy (Theatre and Dance Co-Chair) and created by Miranda Johnsen ‘21 (English and Scanndinavian Studies) and Sam Peters ‘23 (English and Theatre). The directors are part of a class taught by MacCarthy focusing on student-generated work. 

 

Peters and Johnsen held auditions for their digital projects and numerous students participated as performers. Students in the class had multiple projects throughout the semester, all focused on creating pieces over a digital class format. MacCarthy reflected saying, “I am very, very proud of what they accomplished. I think what was really exciting is to see them tackle these projects without fear. In the theatre program and in the dance program, we are all very interested in continuing to pursue this.” 

 

The digital projects included “Betwixt and Between”, “Andromeda”, “Safe, Sugar, Milk, and Creamer”, “In Bloom”, and “Brutal World.” Each director created three projects for this gallery and was responsible for writing, casting, and filming. 

 

As co-chair of the department, MacCarthy is optimistic and excited for future possibilities with digital performance. He stated, “I think it has opened up a lot of possibilities for us in the department. The students as digital natives seemed very comfortable working in this medium and we’re going to continue pursuing this type of work. I’m hoping that I can keep teaching digital performance in the future.”

 

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