Theater and Dance department shows off new skills

Abby Buckner, Associate A&C Editor

The annual First Year Showcase presented talent of first year theatre and dance students on campus Sept. 29 through Oct. 2. The showcase featured original work choreographed and directed by upper level students under the theme “Chaos and Calm.”

The showcase was designed for performance outdoors with audience members guided to various campus locations. However, bad weather from Hurricane Ian pushed the performances inside the Greer Studio Theatre for Saturday’s show.

“They had to quickly adapt an outdoor show to be indoors,” said theatre coordinator Derek Gagnier in the opening speech. “But that’s theater for you.”

The experience was divided into two parts for dance and theater. Dance started with four pieces, each performing illuminating moments of connectivity, stillness and change. The beginning spotlighted three dances displaying modern and contemporary movement. 

One piece that specifically shined was “Undefined Destination” choreographed by senior dance studies major Shannon Retzloff. The grounded and earthy modern piece was inspired by Retzloff’s “love of nature” and experimented with ideas of symmetry and asymmetry.

“I really liked the nature dance because of the colors and idea behind it,” said sophomore exercise science major Mia Fraticelli. “I personally think it fits in well at App because we’re so surrounded by nature.”

The dance portion concluded with a tap finale. The dancers utilized portable tap boards to perform their detailed footwork, often jumping and gliding between the boards for a high energy and engaging performance. 

After a brief intermission, the second portion of the event consisted of an original theater piece directed by Natalie Jones and senior Theatre arts major Savanna Hodge. The scene was set with simple black boxes paired with theatrical sound effects and music.

“We drew inspiration from silent films where sound was an important part,” said senior theater education major and director Jones. “Originally this was outside so we couldn’t rely on just voices to carry across the space.”

The beginning had no audible dialogue. Instead, the actors expressed the narrative through body language and stage directions as they danced and ran through the audience. 

“The first section focused on the chaos of life, with the second focusing on the calm of death,” Jones said.

The tone shifted for the second half of the performance as pre-recorded dialogue was incorporated, with the actors and actresses miming the script. Providing verbal context and layers to the story. 

“You can tell they put a lot of work into it,” said senior English education major Jensen Giles. “I loved the avant garde energy and great costumes.”

The First Year Showcase is described as “an inclusive production incorporating anyone who wants to be involved” according to the Department of Theatre and Dance.

New students from many different backgrounds and experience levels come together to create a show in three weeks.

“The hope we have for the First Year Showcase is to separate the difference between high school and collegiate professional level,” Jones said. “That’s what makes this so inclusive, any first year is given the opportunity to showcase their talent and ultimately learn from this experience.”