Jessica Snyder

Dancers affirm life in face of cancer

The USC Dance Program will present four evenings of original choreography this week inspired by the many struggles of living with an evil condition that causes destruction in more than one aspect of life: cancer. 

USC dance students have paired with the USC Center for Colon Cancer Research to create Affirmation: A Journey of Life Through Dance. The show uses a series of contemporary dances to express the many heartbreaking phases of cancer. 

Fourth-year choreographer Mary Sigward performed the dance “Benign,” which featured an emotional poetry performance by fourth-year English student Mick Johnson. 

“The term is not only connected to the physical disease," Sigward said, "but to thoughts, emotions and relationships, too."

Many of the dances told stories of people being diagnosed and how it affected relationships with significant others and family members. Some dances told stories of awakenings to the real meaning of life and true beauty, while others conveyed the end of life and how to cope with the loss of a loved one. 

The recurring theme amongst all the performances is how strength, love and support from loved ones and the community is required to get through a vigorous situation such as dealing with this disease. 

When first discussing collaboration between the Center for Colon Cancer Research and the student choreographers, an immediate “cancer” connection was made. Several of the 13 pieces were inspired by the dancers’ own experiences with the disease.

“I was hoping to express the idea that life was really short,” said third-year choreographer Allison Eguchi about her dance "Enough," which featured three dancers carrying glowing balls that gradually lost their radiance throughout the dance. 

“The idea was inspired by my grandmother who worked her entire life, and then she passed away from cervical cancer last year,” said Eguchi. "This piece is dedicated toward the idea of being so focused and at the end, you never know what you’re going to get.”

The choreographers created touching performances that allowed the audience to encounter the unfortunate emotions and strife they had to face while someone close to them fought a vicious battle with cancer.  

Dr. Frank Berger, Director of the USC Center for Colon Cancer Research, expressed his appreciation for the great partnership with the student choreographers and was blown away by how the dancers tapped into their emotions and experiences to create a magnificent performance. 

“They brought us an experience we won’t forget,” Dr. Berger said. “And for all of those who have experienced cancer, we honor you.”

Showtime is at 6 p.m. each evening of Dec. 2 through Dec. 5 in Drayton Hall Theatre. Tickets for the concert are $12 for students; $16 for USC faculty staff, military and seniors; and $18 for the general public. Tickets are only available at the door. 

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