Ignite darkness. Cue the bright lights. It’s time for Dance Collisions, a student-run and choreographed dance show.
This showcase is one of the main productions this season for Barnhouse Company, which is entirely student-run. The event is featured on two dates: Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 at 8 p.m. It will take place at the Second Stage in the UC Santa Cruz Theater Arts Department. Admission is free for everyone, including non-UCSC students.
Dance Collisions is part of Barnstorm’s larger effort to provide an opportunity for students to perform, choreograph and direct their own work. Barnstorm is sponsored by the UCSC Theater Arts Department, but allows students more creative license over what they produce.
“Barnstorm is a student-run company,” said Kathryn Wahlberg, the Artistic Director of Barnstorm Company. “We make our own season, we approve our own productions. It’s a great way for students to produce work that is meaningful to them personally and pick their own projects that they think [are] important, as opposed to receiving assignments from faculty members.”
Among several comedy shows and theatrical productions that Barnstorm produces, Dance Collisions strives to provide a forum for expression.
“Dancers are students, choreographers are students,” said Helen Porter, a dancer and a first-time choreographer for the show. “It’s a really great environment in which students can explore creating their own art as well as working with other students in making their art a reality.”
“Skies They Blink,” one of the featured pieces, is choreographed by Porter. Set to “Closer,” by Kings of Leon, the piece seeks to blur the line between the performer and the audience. Porter said her piece was created with the audience in mind.
“I’ve noticed that dance is easy to perceive passively,” Porter said. “It’s nice and pleasing to look at but sometimes as an audience member it’s easy to let it wash over you and not actively participate in the art that you’re seeing. This piece makes it possible to engage with the dancers in a way that I think often we don’t as audience members.”
The show features mostly jazz, contemporary and modern styles but doesn’t restrict choreographers to a particular school of dance.
“They are all just self-contained pieces,” Wahlberg said. “The overarching theme is just student-produced work. The dancers are brought together by an independent spirit of wanting to have ownership of the work that’s been produced.”
This year, Dance Collisions will feature 10 student-choreographed pieces, including a jazz duet by alumni Shannon Blake and Eureese Vue.
Much like Porter’s dance piece, Elizabeth Sugawara’s choreography was created with the audience in mind. Sugawara’s dance, set to “Never Let Me Go,” by Florence and the Machine, is a lyrical dance filled with raw emotion.
“There are different groups doing different steps at the same time because I feel like it is important for each dancer to have their own voice in a piece,” Sugawara said. “Each dancer has a very unique style and I tried to highlight that.”
Dance Collisions also offers a space in which beginner students and choreographers can come together.
“It’s really about a place for artists to be more confident in themselves,” said Kaitlin Tothpal, the director of Dance Collision. “Accepting beginners in this show and realizing it’s not an intimidating space, but that is a learning space is really important. The love for performing brings students together who may have never choreographed danced, or even directed before.”
Beyond providing a space for beginner choreographers and dancers, Dance Collisions seeks to reach a wider audience.
“I look forward to events like this and others like Random With a Purpose, because it’s incredible to view something that can be appreciated by everyone,” Wahlberg said. “Dance is something that reaches across lines of performer and audience.”