by Zazie Tobey, staff writer
Last Wednesday auditions were held for the first ever Warren Wilson Dance Ensemble, a smaller core acting as an umbrella group of the Warren Wilson Dance Collective. The Ensemble as well as the Collective serves as an outlet for students interested in dance classes, workshops, choreography and performance opportunities. With several dance groups already on campus, as well as Modern, Butoh and Improv classes offered by professor Julie Gillum, the Ensemble acts as yet another venue for students to explore.
Around 25 students packed into Bryson Hall for two sweaty hours consisting of a warm-up, structured improv and learning a combination. The auditions were led by long-time dancers and founding members of the ensemble Felicia Hall, Jill Winsby-Fein, Emma Martin, and Leah Lekich.
“We’re not up here because we are the leaders, or the boss of you,” said Martin, a sophomore at Wilson. “We’re all on the same level here.”
There were between 10 and 12 spots to fill for the Ensemble, but the Collective is open to all students interested in dance.
“It’s nerve-racking to go to an audition, but everyone had so much to offer and such great energy that we all left feeling very excited about the Collective,” said Hall, a senior.
The Dance Collective serves as a helpful resource for dancers to connect and collaborate on events such as the Circus in the spring and the Dance Showcase coming up in the beginning of December. Other ideas for the Collective include dancing for service projects and performing outside of the Wilson community.
The Dance Ensemble is the yoke within the eggshell, a more technique-based group, consisting of around 12 dancers, with at least a four to five hour commitment of rehearsals and classes per week. It’s a student-led group, with no appointed leaders and a wide mixture of styles. Mainly based in modern dance and contemporary ballet, the Ensemble ranges from hip hop to jazz to anything else guest teachers and members bring to the table.
“I can’t wait to see all of our different styles mesh together to create something great,” said Allison Mercurio, a sophomore and member of the Dance Ensemble.
There will also be student and professionally taught classes available, open to members of the Dance Collective as well as students unaffiliated with campus dance groups.
“We are hopefully bringing this really fun, funky, talented modern teacher to campus in the evenings, which is more exciting than I can say,” said Winsby-Fein, a junior.
“It’s so hard to go off campus regularly for class, so it will be wonderful to have a variety of teachers (modern, hip hop, swing, etc.) willing to teach here in Bryson,” said Hall.
Since a dance major and minor are not offered, students have taken it upon themselves to train seriously. Organized groups such as the Step Team, Butoh, a modern dance class for credit, performance art practicums, and belly dance hip-hop fusion were inspiration for the creation of the Ensemble. These groups facilitate an outlet for students who feel they want a more focused practice of structured movement, and the Ensemble offers different styles of dance besides what is already available on campus.
“There are so many talented dancers on this campus,” said Hannah Larsen, a sophomore and member of the Dance Ensemble and the Step Team. “I’m glad that a group of them got together to make this [Ensemble] happen.”
Auditions for the Ensemble will be held at the start of each semester, and the Collective is always open to new members and new ideas. Classes are in the works and will be posted on the inside page when available. Look for the Dance Ensemble’s debut at the Showcase as well as the Circus, flash mobs and downtown performances. Anyone interested in joining the collective should contact one of the founding members of the Dance Ensemble or contact Ingrid Hill, the organizer of the December Dance Showcase.
“I am so excited to dance regularly on campus with people that I love and respect,” said Winsby-Fein. “It’s really exciting to have a group in which to share choreography, moves, techniques, etc. I am excited to create something permanent at Warren Wilson for all those dancers who were falling through the cracks before. I think it’s really important to have something official in place so that people commit and take it seriously, and also so that it’s a group that sustains itself for years to come.”