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Ensemble Dance, Viewed Through a Different Lens

Dance ensemble students on beach

Ensembles are a traditional highlight on the Department of Dance at Georgian Court University’s calendar, in which students perform original works choreographed by faculty and guest artists. And yet while nothing has been “traditional” this year because of COVID-19, in the words of author Alice Walker, “hard times require furious dancing.”

The show will go on virtually and premieres on Zoom at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, December 11. It takes the department’s creativity, always on display, to new levels because of social distancing requirements. The students, in addition to being performers, filmed their work with department GoPro cameras, and the choreographers took on the additional role of film editors.

The Fall Ensemble wasn’t filmed on the “black box” of a traditional stage. In Windows, for example, which was choreographed by assistant professor Megan Mazarick, the footage was filmed against the backdrop of several architectural structures. Students used the doors and windows of their homes and university buildings as props. In Reconvenewhere COVID-19 cannot reach, choreographed by department chair Silvana Cardell, dancers performed on local beaches—on the sand and in the ocean—and underwater in swimming pools.

Separated, but Together for Ensemble Dance

Ally Ferry ’21, a dance major, said this year’s Fall Ensemble has matured her as an artist and given her a new appreciation for cinematography.

“I was surprised by how much work went into filming,” she said. “There were creative choices to be made with each frame. It was very different than performing before an audience, who can see everything. With film, the camera is the audience.”

dancer Ally Ferry
Ally Ferry

It was a different experience for the choreographers, too. Ms. Cardell’s ensemble dance students met Wednesdays at 4:00 p.m. and went to the beach to film. They had specific instructions on dance elements to include.

“I’d say ‘Let’s reconvene and see what happens—and that’s why ‘reconvene’ became part of the title,” she said. It typically took more than “one take” to capture the creativity and required technical moves, and for Ms. Cardell, hours of editing time (“My family had to pull me from the computer on weekends,” she added) to create one final film from 60 to 70 pieces of footage.

“Adapt and Change”

“It all shows how adaptable performers are and what we’ll do for our craft,” said Ms. Cardell. “Dance is a very ‘in the moment’ art form, and we chose to embrace the situation we were given.”

Ally agrees.

“The pandemic has been—and still is—difficult, but as dancers, it forced us out of our comfort zones so we could grow and adapt and change,” she said. “That’s how the arts are.”

In addition to faculty pieces, the Fall Ensemble features choreography from guest artist Dr. RAS Mikey C (Michael Courtney)—Alsheshem (No Retreat), a work in progress influenced by Ethiopian conflicts and global themes—and Seven States of Mirage from guest artist Gabriel Mata-Ortega.  

The GCU Fall Ensemble premiered on December 11. Watch the full Zoom show and the individual performances on this playlist.

Contributed by Sheila Noonan.

Aerial view of GCU.

About Georgian Court University

Georgian Court University is a leading regional university that provides a transformative education, preparing students for ethical leadership and service in the Catholic Mercy tradition. Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is Central and South Jersey’s only Catholic university. The university has a strong liberal arts core and a historic special concern for women.

As a forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, GCU is known for expanding possibility for more than 1,900 students of all faiths and backgrounds in 35+ undergraduate majors and 10+ graduate programs. The GCU Lions compete in 15 NCAA Division II sports in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC). In 2020, GCU was named a Best Value College by and a Best Bang for the Buck (Northeast) by Washington Monthly. High student retention and graduation rates make GCU a Top Performer on Social Mobility on U.S. News & World Reports rankings.

The main campus is in Lakewood, New Jersey, on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court, which is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, also serves students through its Center for Professional Studies, and at other locations, including GCU at Brookdale, GCU at Rowan College of South Jersey–Cumberland Campus, and through multiple online degree and certificate programs.