What to expect from this year’s performance
“Since one of the ultimate goals for a [student] dancer is to make art and perform,” explained James Healey, “it is only logical that the Spring Dance Works Concert should be the pinnacle of this process.” Healey is substituting as the acting director for the show as Dance Department Chair Jennifer Camp is on sabbatical. “The hope,” continued Healey, “is that the dancers have an idea of what it is like to be a part of a professional dance environment from the beginning of the process to the end of the process.”
From April 20-22, Pacific’s Dance Ensemble will present their seasonal Spring Dance Works in the Tom Miles Theatre. Healey explained that the approximately 20-person Dance Ensemble, which is nearing its 20th anniversary, as “a course for dance students that is set up like a professional dance company.” Founded in 2004 by Camp, the ensemble allows students to hone their skills as a dancer and gain experience to move forward in their dance career, being taught by seasoned instructors such as Healey, who was a founding member of the New York-based dance company Shen Wei Dance Arts in 2000, and starred as a lead dancer in some of the company’s works such as “Near the Terrace” in 2000.
“Dancers must audition to be in the ensemble, and sign a contract for rehearsals,” he said. “The dancers learn different dance pieces throughout the semester, and perform these works in the theater as a representation of the diversity in styles that the Pacific Dance faculty and guest artists provide to our students.”
For Spring Dance Works, the dancers are introduced to multiple choreographed pieces.
“We start rehearsals right at the beginning of the semester,” said Sara Muller, who’s been with the ensemble for two years and, prior to joining, had danced for 10 years, beginning with New Vision Dance Center in Hillsboro. She wishes to pursue a dance career and thought that Pacific would give her “the best stepping stones” to do that. “We have a lot to learn and need all the time we can get to rehearse these pieces.”
This year, Spring Dance Works offers six student and faculty pieces as well as a piece from a guest artist named Carlyn Hudson,m a professional choreographer and dancer working in Portland who cofounded SubRosa Dance Collective in 2011. According to her biography, her work “has a witty flavor with a dash of humor noir in a creamy base of impeccable musicality.” The piece she prepared for this show is titled “Patchwork.”
Most of the pieces in this year’s Spring Dance Works will have never been performed in front of an audience before. New student pieces this year include a duet called “Juxtaposition” by senior Maya Fowler and senior Lianda Dugied and a group piece by senior Emma Jenkins. New faculty pieces this year are a contemporary jazz piece titled “A Shift” by dance instructor Mary Hunt and a contemporary piece by dance instructor Andrea Parsons.
And, there are a few returning pieces from previous years, including one from Healey titled “[Un]cornered” and another from senior Olivia Oekter titled “Flutter”; both were selected to represent the school at the American College Dance Association Festival in Utah in early March this year.
For those graduating this year, this show will be their last one with the Pacific Dance Ensemble. Healey talked a bit about how COVID-19 had affected their time while dancing here at Pacific and what the transition has been like.
“Last year the Ensemble was able to get back to a bit of normalcy in the theater, but I think we are finally returning to a place where the theater can truly be a place of sharing with and celebrating our Pacific Dance students,” Healey said. “The handful of seniors in the Ensemble would love to perform for the Pacific community one last time and share their hard work and beautiful dancing.”
“This year we have so many new faces and new and fresh performances that I think so many people will enjoy seeing,” Muller said. “People should go to Dance Works this year because we have so many amazing pieces to show off and it’s gonna be an amazing show that people aren’t gonna want to miss.”
Tickets are $5 for students, faculty, and staff; $8 for general admission. “Seats don’t usually run out, but purchasing tickets early is always a good idea,” Healey said. — Aaron Meeuwsen