By Miranda Beninger
An image of the boogeyman looms behind third-year dance student Rodney Morgan as he takes the stage. His body contorts into a series of fluid motions, mimicking the computerized boogeyman on the screen behind him. With a tall Mohawk and dressed in ‘80s grunge style, Morgan appears possessed and driven by fear in this year’s choreographic Works.
“I wanted to do something really different,” he said. Morgan had two of his friends create the boogeyman image and projected it throughout his dance.
Choreographic Works is an annual production put on by students in the Ryerson theatre school. Second-, third- and fourth-year dancers prepare their own choreographed sketches in groups or individually. There are also 48 theatre tech students behind the scenes, working on lighting and cues.
Produced by dance teacher Vicki St. Denys and supervised by dance program director Nadia Potts, the theatre doors open tonight at 8 p.m.
Students had to audition for their spots in the show.
“You want a mixture of contrast and flow,” said St. Denys. “Sometimes I’ll choose a piece because it’s unique or different. They are encouraged to take risks, and try things that are new for them.”
The sketches show the very unique personalities of the performers. One sketch is completely improvised by a group of dancers, with new music every night they perform. Not even the choreographer knows what music will be chosen.
But putting together a piece like this takes sacrifice.
For Ryerson theatre tech students, the two-hour dance show is more than a grade. It means hundreds of hours attending rehearsals and sometimes putting social life on hold.
For the dancers who do not receive grades on the show, it means volunteering their time in hopes of being scouted by agents. Morgan says he has put in about three hours a night since January rehearsing his boogeyman piece while balancing up to 40 hours of class per week.
“You don’t have much of a social life. Your social life becomes your work, and your friends are the people you work with,” said Morgan. Sometimes the students spent up to 17-hour days rehearsing, with few breaks.
After graduation, Morgan hopes to find work in the dance or choreography field. “There’s a lot of dancers in the city and not so much work going on, so it’s kind of a struggle,” he said.
St. Denys agreed that dancers have chosen a difficult profession, but said hard work can pay off. In the past, she said dancers who have participated in making Choreographic Works have gone on to major roles, including parts in the Lion King, Mamma Mia and Cirque du Soleil.
Byrdie Koronon, the marketing and promotions manager, said agents and scouts looking for potential dancers are usually attracted to shows like choreographic Works. “[Teachers in the theatre school] try to simulate what the real industry is like. It takes months of work. There’s really no time off,” she said.
Koronon believes the show will sell out. With 85 available seats each night, she said a more intimate setting is offered for the audience.
“The show is really physically demanding because it runs for 10 days, so it’s a long haul,” said Koronon. There are two casts, but some students are in both, and will be putting on a total of 13 shows.
“There is such a blend of different movement in the show,” said St. Denys. “It’s interesting to see what students have to say in their own voice, and to give them a chance to create.”