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Sydney Tafuri '11 Choreographs a Group Dance

Watching a dance performed live on stage, it's easy to get lost in the beauty and aesthetics of the creative moment. But how does all that come together? Where do the ideas come from, and how are they expressed first to the dancers and then by the dancers through their movements?

To find out, we followed the progress of Sydney Tafuri '11 as she choreographed a group dance for the March 2011 "An Evening of Dance" concert, presented by the Department of Theatre, Speech, and Dance and choreographed/performed by members of Orchesis Dance Company.

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As a Dance minor, Sydney took classes that helped her develop her own dance technique. She also took Dance Composition, which focuses on the elements, methods, and structures of composition for the solo figure; and then Group Choreography, where she learned to choreograph for more than one dancer.

"You learn how to put a group of dancers in a space, and how to teach and run rehearsals," Sydney said. After reaching this point, she had the chance to choreograph and present her own group dance.

"There are two main opportunities for students to present their choreography," noted Joan Gavaler, dance professor and chair of the Theatre, Speech, and Dance department. "We offer the Dance Minors Concert, which showcases a variety of works by students working toward their Dance Minor, and the Orchesis spring concert, which is choreographed by students and advised by the faculty. These public events allow our students to complete the creative process by experiencing their own work before a live audience."

During summer 2010, far in advance of the following spring's concert, Sydney took her first creative steps to develop her dance piece.

"I came up with the ideas first, based on my emotions and what I wanted to portray. Then I needed to find music to match that. Once I found the music I put it on to see how it made me feel. When I play the right music it hits me internally somewhere. When I hear it I feel something, and that triggers what kind of movement I do. The music kind of guides me when I'm starting out, and I see where it takes me," said Sydney.

Over the fall 2010 semester, she experimented with how she wanted to move with the music and worked to relate the movements back to what she was trying to portray.

"The piece I choreographed is very personal to me. It's an accumulation of my College and life experiences. It's about struggles, and how you rise above them, how they make you who you are today," she said.

The pace picked up in spring 2011 as she began working with "her" dancers, teaching them the movements she had choreographed and refining elements of the piece. She also began collaborating with crew members, a lighting designer, and on myriad other aspects involved in producing a dance successfully. She introduced memorial armbands to the costumes as a tribute to a mentor, Dr. McCabe.

"Staging a dance concert involves the work of many people," noted Gavaler. "For the 2011 Orchesis concert we had a technical director, stage manager, four student lighting designers, and a running crew of six students, in addition to the choreographers and dancers."

As Sydney's piece went into technical and dress rehearsals, she was able to see how everything was coming together. "It feels amazing. It's almost surreal in a way, to see your work up on a stage in costumes with lighting. It's like, 'Wow, this is becoming real.'"

The piece was performed March 24-26.

"Choreography allows me to channel my emotions and make my vision come to life through other dancers. It's a really, really cool thing," said Sydney. "It's sweet that my last dance here really sums up my experiences."