Smith Auditorium will be buzzing with energy this week as the Willamette Dance Company takes the stage for its Spring Showcase on Thursday and Friday. The group, which is the largest club on campus, will feature nearly 80 students of all experience levels performing in student-choreographed pieces. Both shows begin at 7 p.m. and cost $1 at the door.
According to Dance Company Co-President Olive Murdoch Meyer (‘21), this is one of the largest shows that the Company has produced in some time.
“We typically have 10 to 12 dances, but we’re going to have 18 this year,” she said. Overall, there are over a dozen student choreographers involved in the Spring Showcase, as well as guest student dance groups such as Young Ones and Paradigm.
Rehearsals for the Showcase began shortly after the Spring Activities Fair at the beginning of the semester, allowing students to sign up for the email list and learn about auditions. As Murdoch Meyer and Co-President Uriel Mejia Raya (‘20) explained, the audition process is always completely non-discriminatory and open to dancers of all levels.
“Basically, no one is cut,” Murdoch Meyer said. “Choreographers show 10 seconds of what they’re thinking of doing, it doesn’t have to be formal at all, and then you as a dancer get to note down your top three, and you’re guaranteed at least one of them. We don’t let people not dance. Also, anybody can choreograph anything. I’ve had people choreograph who have never danced a formal day in their lives.”
Once placements were solidified, dancers met in their groups for around an hour per week, while Murdoch Meyer, Mejia Raya and the rest of the executive board get to work finding rehearsal spaces, reworking the budget, planning the show order, communicating with dancers and procuring costumes. Halfway through the semester, participants gathered for Show and Share, an informal performance to showcase the progress each dance was making.
As Mejia Raya noted, one of the defining characteristics of Dance Company is that each show is unpredictable.
“It’s completely dependent on what each choreographer wants to do for each show,” he said. “There are no expectations with Dance Company. Nobody knows what it is. That’s the expectation, to not know what it is. And each piece is different, so don’t expect the same thing from all of them.”
For Thursday and Friday’s shows, styles and themes include contemporary, jazz, lyrical, belly-dancing and a dance done completely in high heels. A special feature of this semester’s Showcase is a piece choreographed by Monya Maleki (‘19), featuring several members of Willamette’s football team, as part of a project Maleki has been working on to research the effects of ballet on balance, flexibility and agility in the players.
Along with being Willamette’s largest club, Dance Company is also completely student run. While Mejia Raya and Murdoch Meyer handle the larger aspects of the organization, Claire Mathews-Lingen (‘21) and Kristin Jradi (‘21) help with planning, Alicia Hall (‘21) and Alyssa Eklund (‘21) are responsible for publicity and Alison Pitcher (‘21) leads a group of students in charge of costume management. The shows’ audio is run by ASWU Sound and lighting is provided by the Theatre Department.
Students who are interested in becoming involved with Dance Company can email Murdoch Meyer at <okmurdochmeyer> to become part of the email list, which is the main form of communication for the club.
“Anyone can be part of it. Literally anyone. You don’t have to have any experience in terms of leadership for Dance Company,” said Mejia Raya. “I think that not having dance experience and just writing choreography is something you can learn. You can be involved in any way. You can be involved by coming to watch!”