Courtesy of Jason Ayer

Students create original works for annual choreography showcase

USC's dance department will be performing original works choreographed by undergraduate students nightly Dec. 4-7 at 7:30 p.m. at Drayton Hall Theatre for their Fall 2018 Student Choreography Showcase.

University dance instructor Cindy Flach is the concert director who helps the students with whatever they may need during the choreographing process. The students have been preparing the showcase since the beginning of the semester.

“This is actually my first year choreographing myself, but my other years here I’ve been in the student showcase," said Meredith Price, a fourth-year dance and visual communications student. "But it’s definitely different being on the other side of things now and putting my ideas onto a group of dancers. But it’s been a really good experience.”

Students like Price that are participating get to see a new perspective of their craft through choreographing the dance for the first time, rather than performing it. Shreya Mehta, a fourth-year public health student, is also choreographing for the first time in the showcase.

“It’s so different, it’s like you’re teaching and then you’re directing and then you’re just sort of this mastermind, but you’re also responsible for everything so it’s definitely very different," Mehta said. "I appreciate the efforts of my teachers a lot more now, just all of my teachers in general but definitely my dance teachers.”

The students who decide they want to create their own piece go through an application process with Flach. They begin choreographing in August, and in September they show about half of their dance to a panel who will see if they are on the right track.

However, Price said that no one usually gets cut from that. The students who have this opportunity are either dance majors or minors who have completed one of the choreography classes offered by the university. They then pick their dancers, who audition in September and begin rehearsals.

“My piece is a lot of collaboration between myself and my dancers," Price said. "So, I kind of would give them a base and I was like if you want to change it and do something that worked a little bit better for you then they’re more than welcome to. Because I want their voice in it as well as mine, and I’ve had them create some little snippets for themselves to put in there as well.” 

Nine pieces will be performed this year. 

Mehta explained how she would be combining an Indian classical dance form, Bharatanatyam, with contemporary dance. Because her dance uses such a particular style, Mehta was looking for one dancer who specializes in Bharatanatyam, one who specializes in contemporary and one who can perform a mixture of both.

“As an Indian American I feel like I've always had two different cultures in my life, two different influences, and sometimes those influences are not on the same page," Mehta said. "And so, basically, this dance is an exploration of when they were in conflict and how I basically learned to resolve the two different values and expectations of both cultures in my personal life.”  

Mehta said she's excited because she hasn’t told her family or friends what her dance is about and wants to surprise them. She explained that she's eager to bring a unique perspective to the stage and can't wait to see the finalized performance.

Price and Mehta have been balancing dance with their other schoolwork for the past four years, however they agree that once showtime approaches their lives get more hectic.

Tickets for the choreography showcase can be purchased at the door at the Longstreet Theatre box office, online or by phone at 803-777-2551. They are $15 for students.

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