The Department of Dance at Long Beach State is gearing up for the first part of Fall Dance Festival on Friday, a performance compiled of short videos of students dancing to choreographed pieces from their homes.
The showcase will be streamed live via the department’s YouTube channel starting at 7 p.m., its second performance airing on Nov. 20.
Fall Dance Festival was organized and produced by the students of the senior seminar class, a class for seniors of the dance department to prepare for the industry before graduation.
The decision was in response to the loss of individual projects that soon-to-be graduating students normally work on, according to assistant professor Rebecca Lemme, who teaches the class. With the coronavirus pandemic and the switch to virtual learning, the Department of Dance had to figure out a way to still support students’ need for “creative work.”
“The students have really thought about every element of the show, including doing a lot of work to make it accessible to different audiences through providing closed captioning, audio descriptions, and ASL interpreters for the pre and post show talks,” Lemme said via email. “I’m incredibly proud of all the work they have put in to make this happen.”
Students had to audition via Zoom. They would perform in groups of six while the other Zoom participants were hidden so that choreographers could carefully watch the performances.
“It was really wild how similar it was to our normal auditions that we’d have in person,” Clara Vigil, a fourth-year dance major, said.
According to Vigil, who is the production coordinator for the festival, there are about 40 students selected to perform in the festival.
Vigil will be one of those students.
For her, that means practicing in her laundry room and filming herself dancing to send to the choreographer in charge of her piece.
Her choreographer will watch the videos of the students part of the piece to analyze if anything needs to be improved upon. Students will then re-record themselves, and the final performance of the dance will feature footage of the students best videos of them dancing, edited down into one fluid clip.
It is an entirely new experience for the students, and Lemme recognized that.
“Although there are similarities to making choreography for live performances, making work for the camera is a completely different beast,” Lemme said. “For most, it means investigating a new way of thinking about the visual elements of their work, not to mention learning to shoot and edit all in a matter of weeks.”
For Kevin Holland, a third-year dance major and choreographer, he is learning not only how to translate his vision of his piece into one final clip, but also how to share that vision with the dancers.
“That’s been different too because usually, you practice the dance in the studio or something and everyone is in the dance and they know what it looks like because they’re doing it,” Holland said.
His piece, “Simmer,” is being performed at Fall Dance Festival.
The idea for the piece came to Holland after he realized he wanted to focus on an area of the house to film in. He said that he wanted it to feel cohesive despite everyone being separated from performing in the same space.
That, paired with his attempts to cook more during the stay-at-home orders and memories of his mom cooking as a child, turned “Simmer” into something more.
“I’ve been trying to connect back to that, and giving myself time to make stuff and this piece sort of turned in to a call of action to myself and maybe other people to take time for yourself,” Holland said.
One of Holland’s visions for the piece includes having the dancers appear to be all at the same table. They will come close to the camera, he said, and perform using their own tables and chairs.
“Even though they’re in different frames, it looks like they’re looking at each other, or giving each other high fives, or that sort of thing so there’s still like a sense of community,” Holland said. “We’re all at the table, even though we’re in different parts of the state.”
Although Vigil said communication has been difficult, Fall Dance Festival was something she believed students never thought that they would be doing.
“It’s been nice to kind of dance with our peers again, and to connect with the students that we honestly didn’t think we’d be able to really have much interaction with, like the incoming freshmen and the transfers,” Vigil said. “But this just allowed us to work with them, where we didn’t think we were actually going to be able to work with them this semester.”