Before the end of every semester, the University of Maine School of Performing Arts puts on its bi-annual Dance Showcase. The event offers a stunning insight into all the hard work each dancer puts toward perfecting a range of different dance styles, and the final product never fails to wow its audience.
Unbeknownst to many UMaine students, the showcase has already started prepping for the final stage, with a full tech rehearsal taking place last Saturday, Dec. 2, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fifteen pieces are planned for the final show, and many dancers are participating in more than one.
Amanda DeBaker, a third-year psychology and sociology student and President of UMaine’s Dance Club, is in eight pieces for this showcase, as well as choreographing two of her own. She is happy to support her fellow dancers, and was cheering them on from the audience as they performed.
“We are like a big family,” she explained, “we spend hours and hours every week together, sometimes up to six hours a day.” DeBaker has been dancing for 11 years, and incorporated that passion into a dance minor here at UMaine. She is especially excited for this fall’s showcase, as “there’s an interesting mix of veteran dancers with some new dancers as well, some of whom might never have been on a stage before.”
When asked if she had a favorite piece this semester, she replied that it’s difficult to chose because she feels so attached to them all. DeBaker admitted to favoring the piece she choreographed herself which was influenced by the hit HBO show “Game of Thrones.” The piece features a large group of dancers configured into a human throne, and passionate contemporary dancing is mixed with fluid movements across the stage. Her creativity shines through as the dancers interact with each other in unique ways that complement each performer’s strengths and weaknesses.
Another veteran dancer, a fourth-year kinesiology and dance student Shanay Gilbert, is performing in five of the dances and expressed excitement to show the audience her skills come show time.
“I’ve been dancing since I was two years old and my mom owns a dance studio, so dance has always been a big part of my life.”
Gilbert has mini solos within some of the pieces, showing off her flexibility and hair flipping skills.
Olivia Jernigan, a fourth-year studying mechanical engineering, is also performing in the showcase. She noted that participating in the event is a huge time commitment, especially at an already hectic time of the year. But “it’s so worth it,” she says, “it’s so much fun.” You can find her tapping in the Evolution of Tap Dance performance put on by the Tap Club.
Some dancers have decided to participate as much as physically possible, like third-year students Willow Beccia and Emma Jandreau. Not only are they officers of dance club (Beccia is president of hip-hop club and Jandreau is president of Celtic club) but each of them are featured in 10 of the 15 pieces. The two have always been passionate about dance, both minoring in dance, and they prepare for the showcase all semester long.
Fourth-year bioengineering student Cassandra Dechaine can relate to feeling passionate about dance. Although the commitment takes about eight hours every week from her busy schedule, Dechaine still looks forward to rehearsals and performances.
“I love dancing, it is my outlet. I need an outlet from the stress of my academic life, so that’s what dance is for me,” Dechaine said.
The 15 featured pieces range in style, performers, lighting and music. The dance styles include tap, hip-hop, Celtic, contemporary and a little bit of ballet thrown in here and there. The music choices are bold and will be sure to capture your attention from start to finish, but the real center of attention lies with the incredible dancers. Their talent and passion shines through in each piece. UMaine students should be sure to check it out before they leave for winter break. It is a great way to support the arts and your fellow UMaine students.
The Fall Showcase will have three showings, starting Thursday, Dec. 7 in the Hauck Auditorium. The second show will take place the following day on Friday, Dec. 8 and the final show on Saturday, Dec. 9. All shows start at 7:30 p.m. (be sure to come early to get a seat) and tickets are $9 or free with a valid MaineCard.