Arts & Life, Fine & Performing Arts

Department of Dance students, faculty to perform live onstage concert at Long Beach State

After a year of pre-recording shows outdoors, the Department of Dance at CSULB is returning with a live performance at the Martha B. Knoebel Dance Theatre in November.

“Variance,” is an annual dance concert featuring choreography from the department’s Bachelor of Fine Arts students and faculty. It will take place Thursday, Nov. 18 and Friday, Nov. 19 for a limited audience, and be live-streamed through Vimeo for the general public.

The concert began six years ago and is now returning from a one-year hiatus prompted by the pandemic. It will feature choreography by four BFA students and three faculty pieces.

In the past, “Variance” was separated into two shows, one student and one faculty showcase. This year, it was decided that there would only be one show.

“We’re combining these two [showcases] this year, in the hopes that we can successfully produce one safe concert, as opposed to trying to jump into a full schedule again,” Rebecca Lemme, CSULB professor and concert director, said.

The concept behind “Variance” is that there is no overarching theme, and each choreographer decides what they want to convey with their piece.

Choreographer and dancer, Aisha Barge, performing in the 2019 Variance concert.
Choreographer and dancer, Aisha Barge, performs at the 2019 Variance concert. Photo credit: Gregory RR Crosby

Aisha Reddick, a fourth-year student and a choreographer of the show, said that her piece is centered around mirrors and reflections. The idea stemmed from a random improvisation task she gave herself.

“I tried to move faster than my reflection and slower to see if I could see any differences in our movements,” Reddick said. “I pretended that me and my reflection were two different people, and I was trying to shake this other person from my movements.”

Reddick decided to apply as a choreographer for the show since this is her last semester at CSULB. “I’ve always loved choreographing, so this opportunity is so special to me, and I hope I leave Long Beach with a lasting impression through my art,” Reddick said.

As a performer, Reddick said she believes the pandemic has made it challenging to keep audiences engaged and motivated to watch dance performances online.

“It can be easy to disconnect when you’re watching online and even more so when you know that you should be seeing it live and in person,” Reddick said.

Last year, the dance department hosted two online festivals during the fall and spring semesters. Lemme said that the virtual turnout for both events went very well compared to the typical number of people that would have shown up at the theatre.

“The nice thing about the virtual shows is that we will premiere it live, but you can also catch it a little bit after it’s initially premiered,” Lemme said. “So, for this show we expect to have a pretty good turnout of people who want to check it out.”

For the concert this fall, the department has decided to allow a limited number of dance majors, faculty and staff into the audience. The small audience will provide energy and encouragement to the dancers as they return to the stage.

While they would love to perform in front of a full house again, the department faculty said that presenting the concert via live-stream would be the safest option as concerns over different COVID-19 variants continue to grow.

“The best way to share this [performance] with a maximum number of people is to host it on our Vimeo platform,” Betsy Cooper, professor and chair of the dance department at CSULB, said. “We feel it’s the most responsible and safest thing to do.”

Lemme added that it is important for everyone involved in the production to follow protocols, in order to see the show all the way through.

“We are going to be doing testing for everyone involved,” Lemme said. “We’re going to most likely have everyone still performing in masks just to try to keep people as safe as possible.”

For more information on the upcoming concert, visit the CSULB Dance Department website.

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