Dancers rehearse for Dances 2001.

Photo: Tracey Tong

Students just wanna dance

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In Dances 2001, they get their chance.

By Samra Habib

As the vibrant sax tunes and soft drum beats of Charles Mingus’ jazzy “Scenes From the City” blare from the sound system, dancers take their position on the rehearsal floor. The males pick up their female partners and flitter across the room.

“I just want to dance,” says Justin Gionet, a second-year dance student. “That’s it.”

He gets an adrenaline rush on stage. He is fascinated with the idea that what he’s participating in is art, and that people get so much from watching.

About 50 second- and third-year Ryerson theatre students are performing in Dances 2001, which is currently playing at the Ryerson Theatre. The show is five different pieces choreographed by Lawrence Gradus, Carol Anderson, Vicki St. Denys, Sasha Ivanochko and the dance company, CORPUS.

Students are almost entirely responsible for making Dances happen. The stage managers, costume designer and dancers are all Ryerson theatre students.

Avery Swartz is a third-year technical student working on her fifth show. She’s the set and costume designer for most of the productions (CORPUS came with its own costumes) as part of her curriculum. She discusses design concepts with choreographers and then relays their vision to the technical crew.

“Success for me would be [having] the costumes and the sets look crisp and clean and up to my standard,” Swartz says.

The inspiration for Anderson’s piece came from a photograph of a sunset she took at her cottage. Anderson and Swartz later decided to use the crimson colours of the sunset and the nature theme throughout the show.

“[The choreographers] were all chosen very carefully for the quality of their work, their originality and creativity,” says Karen Duplisea, a teacher at Ryerson’s theatre school. “And because they have a good reputation as teachers and choreographers.”

CORPUS’s piece, Carousel, is the only piece that has been performed before. The rest of the numbers will be shown for the first time.

Anderson’s piece, Milles Fleurs/ A Thousand Flowers, consists of 23 women in crinkled satin dresses.

Crushed Roses, choreographed by Lawrence Gradus, is about a man who never returns from war.

Ryerson theatre instructor Vicki St. Denys’s piece incorporates music by jazz musicians Hank Mobley and Charles Mingus to reflect through dance how people feel when they listen to jazz.

Award-winning dancer and choreographer Sacha Ivanochko’s piece in Dances 2001 is inspired by the orchestrated music of composer John Cage.

As theatre students get ready to take over the stage, they talk passionately about performing.

“Performing is a natural high,” says Rodney Morgan, a second-year dance student who has been performing since he was five years old. “I love the feeling of freedom you get performing when you’ve rehearsed for so long and you finally are in the moment, on stage, giving your all to the audience.” Morgan is performing in Lawrence Gradus’s piece and has been rehearsing since September.

Like Swartz, technical production students are working behind the scene. Trevor Lomas, a fourth-year technical production student, is the production stage manager. He deals with personal issues involving dancers and problems with costumes. Aside from working on this production, he is in the process of starting his own dance company with some fellow theatre students.

Above all, he just wants to have a good time.

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