by HALEY SCHNITZER
UMW’s Performing Arts Company, known as PAC to the Mary Washington community, executed one captivating dance after another in their spring Big Show, held this past weekend on Friday, April 8 and Sunday, April 10 in Dodd Auditorium. Dances packed full of impressive leg tilts, leaps, turns and extensions dazzled audiences full of students, alumni, community members, friends and family.
The one and a half hour long Big Show of fourteen dances featured a wide variety of styles including tap, jazz, ballet, contemporary, modern, musical theatre and hip-hop.
For dancer and choreographer Keona May, a senior English major in the education program, Big Show was a college career highlight. “I feel extremely grateful to have been given a space to pursue a new creative outlet,” said May.
Choreographing Big Show is no small feat. Dancers have to be in the group for at least two semesters before earning the opportunity to choreograph dances for Small Show, a prerequisite to choreographing for Big Show.
May described the dance she choreographed as “upbeat, fun, women-empowering and girl-bossy.” She choreographed a saucy jazz routine to Harry Styles’s “Only Angel.”
Also noteworthy in this show was the exceptional lighting and effects; two of the dances included strobe lighting. The lighting, changed in between performances, was conducive to setting a unique ambiance for each dance. Choreographers collaborated with lighting designers, including the Director of Dodd Auditorium Douglas E. Noble, fellow PAC dancer Hadley Mantia and students Haley Bosher, Taija Slack and Elizabeth Debes, to curate suitable lighting and backgrounds for their respective pieces.
In preparation for Big Show, dancers met weekly throughout the semester, at first to learn, and later to rehearse, each of their dances. As Big Show approached, rehearsal times extended into the weekend, too.
Dancer Gracie Bauman, a junior sociology major in the education program, described the time commitment of PAC as “what you make it,” as dancers are given the opportunity to choose how many routines to participate in for Big Show, ranging from one to three.
Bauman was featured in two dances in this show. The first was a contemporary piece with ballet elements titled “Mind Jungle” to the tune of XXXTENTACION’s “whoa (mind in awe),” and the second was May’s jazz number.
“Both of the shows went extremely well!” said PAC Vice President Nicole Altenberg, a junior psychology and women’s, gender and sexuality studies double major. “It was really cool to see the dances we have worked hard on all semester come to life.”
Looking ahead, Altenberg will be assuming the role of PAC president in the fall. “I am extremely excited to take on the role of president next year!” she said. “The officers that I have worked with both this year and last year have taught me so much.”
Current PAC President Madeline Williams, a senior art history and historic preservation double major, spoke on her own time in leadership, saying “my time as PAC president has been a lot of things: busy, fun, stressful at times. It’s a lot of organization and communication and has taught me a lot about being a leader.”
As this spring semester comes to a close, many clubs and organizations on campus are honoring their graduating seniors, and Performing Arts Company is no exception.
The final dance in Big Show was the “senior piece,” a spring semester Big Show tradition. The dance was a fast-paced, spunky number to “It’s Time to Dance” from the Broadway musical, “The Prom,” featuring all of the seniors in PAC.
Based on Big Show’s resounding success, one may assume each dancer had been dancing all of their lives. This is not the case, however, due to the company’s staunch commitment to inclusivity. Each individual who auditions is guaranteed a role in their shows, allowing for dancers of varying levels of ability and talent. However, by the time of Big Show, the group has perfected their routines.
So, if you’re interested in being a dancer, look out for announcements from PAC about auditions in the fall 2022 semester!