Eric Nielson, dance program coordinator, founded the VSU Repertory Dancers in 1986, making this ensemble the oldest dance repertory company in South Georgia.
Since then the ensemble has seen many student dancers, guest artists, part-time and full-time faculty members. The dances have been documented on video to be restaged for future concerts, lecture demonstrations and special performances.
VSU’s ensemble now has over 200 recorded dances on file.
“People may ask ‘What do you do with 200 dances?’” Nielson said. “Well, a lot of those dances are restaged. Some of our patrons ask for certain dances and then we decide which ones to perform.”
This year’s concert, “Fresh Tracks” is composed of six pieces: ‘Time Out’, a past piece from VSU’s repertoire, ‘Intimate Echoes’, a reworking of a previous dance, ‘Habit of Change’, a dance from another repertory cast, and three new dances, ‘Axis’, ‘Call of the Beat’ and ‘Fluttering Awake/Wash Over Me’.
At this point of production, Nielson is focused on preparing the dancers to keep up stamina for the entire show.
“A lot of the students are in three pieces,” Nielson said. “That’s the maximum because they just can’t get through more than three pieces—although they all think they can.”
One of Nielsen’s pieces, ‘Call of the Beat’ is a percussion piece, choreographed with the help of the Music Analysis for Dancer’s class. Not only are the students dancing, but they got the chance to make the music themselves.
The concert will also serve as a welcome to new faculty member and Repertory dancer, Sarah Arnett.
“It’s nice to have some new blood,” Nielson said. “This is her first concert with us and she has really excited the students in a whole different way—something you can see in the variety of genres in concert.”
Arnett, a recent graduate from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, not only choreographed ‘Habit of Change’ and ‘Fluttering Awake/Wash Over Me’ but will also be performing in ‘Call of the Beat.’
According to Arnett, dance has always played an important role in her life.
“I’ve always danced, but there wasn’t a dance major at the first school I went to,” Arnett said. “So I didn’t always know that something I loved to do was a viable option for a job.”
Arnett’s choreographed “Fluttering Awake/Was Over Me’ in hopes of bringing a different experience of dance to both the audience and the dancers.
“I was looking to integrate contemporary dance, not just within the technique but in the actual construction of the piece for both the audience and the dancers,” Arnett said. “I want them to see ballet not just as beautiful dancers with long lines and perfect bodies, but as a more expressive way of dancing ballet.”
According to Arnett, ‘Habit of Change’, her second piece, is a cast- involved dance and the audience should expect to see different types of movement than they are used to.
“Rather than just bringing in choreography and saying, ‘Here’s the movement—do it like this’, it asks the dancers to intelligently think about certain prompts I gave them and create responses out of that,” Arnett said.
The VSU Repertory dancers don’t just perform annual concerts; they also enjoy a professional level touring experience to either New York or Los Angeles, which prepares students for life in the real world of dance and performance following graduation.
“The goal is to make our dancers as marketable as possible,” Nielsen said. “By the time our dance majors graduate, they should have all the skills to get hired at a dance company.”
Students interested in becoming a part of the VSU Repertory dancers can audition in the first week of classes. Auditions are open to all students—not just dance majors.
“Just don’t be afraid to try it out,” Arnett said. “A lot of people have certain ideas of what it means to be a dance major, but not only do our students get dance related jobs—they also use that knowledge to do other things. They’re not coming over here just to get a technique class for eight hours a day.”