By Emily Kaiser, SMTD Publicity Intern
Colorado State University Dance presents this semester’s Senior Dance Capstone Concert, Eventide. Senior dance majors Tiana Farnsworth, Hannah Finnegan, and Emily LaCourse prepare their final dance concert before walking across the graduation stage in May. The concert takes place in the University Dance Theater at the University Center for the Arts on Friday, May 4, and Saturday May 5.
As expressed by the choreographers, Eventide represents dark turning to light, like a sunrise. This metaphor explores the darker, heavier moments in life, as well as the lighter, happier parts. The title conceptualizes the contrast between the students’ group choreography themes involving monsters and shadows, as well as joy and positivity. The dancers describe each new day as being filled with challenges, victories, and opportunities that we as humans must experience to make sense of these contrasting moments and feelings.
The Senior Capstone Process
Farnsworth, Finnegan, and LaCourse collaborated to produce a cohesive dance concert by individually choreographing a group and a solo piece, while simultaneously creating an overall concert theme and publicizing the performance. The five-minute long solos and 11-minute group pieces incorporate each senior’s choice of music, lighting, costumes, projections, and props. The choreographers were given creative freedom to produce the final product, while receiving mentorship and assistance from faculty members, the CSU Costume Shop, the theatre stage crew/stage manager, and the UCA marketing team to make their vision a reality. The incredibly large project has taken a lot of time, effort, dedication, collaboration, and support from one another.
Throughout the semester, the seniors developed an in-depth dance portfolio including their professional dance photos and headshots, a descriptive process essay, programs from past performances/featured choreography, biography, resume, and Curriculum Vitae. Following the performance, each senior will meet with the dance faculty to present their final portfolios. Under the direction of Professor Chung-Fu Chang, the seniors created these portfolios at a professional level to showcase their performance and choreographic work, as well as reflect on their progress throughout their time at CSU.
Creating a Vision
Finnegan describes her group piece, “Monsters of My Mind,” as the portrayal of negative thoughts and how they can affect a person’s life and personality. She pulled inspiration from a quote found on Pinterest: “It’s not easy to have become numb. It only shows you have felt everything a billion times over. And now your mind is so exhausted, it cannot even express itself anymore,” by an unknown author. Her piece features ten dancers who will be wearing black and white geometric morph suits. “I chose these because I want them to represent negative thoughts/figures of imagination rather than humans. This is why I chose to have their faces concealed,” Finnegan explained. Through this concept, she hopes the audience reflects on negative experiences they may have encountered in life.
Finnegan’s solo “Unattainable” is about the internal conflict of dancing for yourself, while also dancing for an audience and “the desire to reach perfection in your dancing,” she explained. As she expresses vulnerability through the solo, Finnegan wants the audience to “get a sense of who I am not only as a performer, but also as a person.”
Structured improve is one of Finnegan’s primary techniques for generating choreography. This is a technique where the dancers are given freedom to explore movement under specific instruction. For example, asking a dancer to improv with animalistic qualities, or with initiation from a specific body part is considered structured improv. She enjoys giving her dancers improvisational tasks as an inspirational tool for new choreography. Finnegan aims for unique movement and interesting, creative sequences for her pieces.
Similarly, LaCourse’s group piece “Dark Corners” envisions the shadows that hide in our lives. “These shadows creep and crawl out of the boxes that we try so hard to tuck away from the public eye. In this piece, my dancers will be the shadows that represent anxiety, depression, and mental, emotional, and physical abuse,” she explained. The ten dancers in her piece are wearing black leotards with mesh sleeves, black leggings, and black socks. “Since they are shadows, I wanted to black out their eyes with stage makeup that starts darker and blends into a smoky illusion. I feel this really adds to their character,” LaCourse elaborated. For this piece, she is using a large, black box where the dancers who are playing the role of shadow figures can “hide and creep.” The box is also used in her solo to connect the two pieces.
LaCourse’s solo, “The Things that Keep Me Up at Night” is her way of sharing with the audience the things that disturb her while sleeping. She describes the concept as waking up at night in complete panic over nothing and everything in the same moment. The message she wants to convey through both her group and solo is, “we as humans should not stuff the uncomfortable in a box never to be opened.”
LaCourse enjoys choreographing movement that feels natural to the body. “I take a phrase and set it on bodies. I take note of how this phrase moves on my dancers and then manipulate the space, time, and energy of the movement. I like to see choreography as a puzzle that only [I] can solve,” she further explained.
In contrast to Finnegan and LaCourse’s pieces, Farnsworth’s group piece, “Small Things” exudes a much happier tone. It is about the small things in life that make a person happy, “It explores the everyday gestures, friendships, playfulness, and the spread of joy that can come from one person,” she explained. In this piece, Farnsworth expresses the color of life along with aspects of joy and happiness. Her group features seven dancers, wearing knee-length tank dresses in yellow, blue, and pink. “Their hair will be half-up/half-down with basic makeup to give a lighter quality for the piece and allow for facial expressions to be seen,” she explained. Farnsworth is also using flowers as a prop. “The flowers match the color of their dress to resemble how one individual’s happy moment can spread and affect other’s lives as well,” she elaborated.
Farnsworth’s solo, “All the Pieces” portrays a recurring thought or memory as a reminder of happiness in life. “It explores how life can distract us from what brings us joy and sometimes happiness is a choice and sometimes it weaves in and out of our lives,” Farnsworth elaborated.
Farnsworth’s choreographic process includes formulating her concept, founding music, then going into the studio where she explores movement in relation to the feeling of the music. “I repeat the movement I have found and watch it in the mirror or on my dancers to see if it works or not,” she explained.
The creation of each choreographer’s unique group and solo is essential to the concert as a whole. However, the compilation of all the sections together allows for a cohesive and sentimental performance. Each dance provides the audience with a different story that portrays each choreographer’s individual style and vision. The choreographers look forward to sharing their finished work with friends and family next month.
Just the Beginning…
Farnsworth, Finnegan, and LaCourse are prepared to immerse themselves into the professional dance world following graduation. Starting their unique journeys, the seniors have plans to explore more than one aspect of the dance industry, whether it be teaching, choreographing, performing, dance education, dance science, and dance administration.
Hannah Finnegan’s short-term dance goals to perform professionally within the concert or commercial realm, choreograph, and teach. “I am also considering going back to school to get my M.F.A. in dance so I can teach higher education. I believe dance can be so much more than just making shapes to [music]. Dance can express, empower, and ultimately make a difference. I would say my main goal is to make a difference and help others through dance,” she elaborated.
Tiana Farnsworth is excited to share her life with her husband as she pursues a career as a professional dance teacher, educator, and modern dance performer. Tiana is currently working on becoming a personal trainer and group fitness instructor to help a variety of people be happy and healthy. Tiana sends a huge thank you to her husband, David, and all of her family and friends who have supported her throughout this journey.
Emily LaCourse is returning to Houston’s struggling communities to teach public education. Her dream is to bring the values of a classical dance education to every child regardless of class, ethnicity, religion, or race. LaCourse would like to thank her family and people who have become like family. She also thanks the educators who inspired her to touch other students’ lives. Most of all, she would like to thank her granny, Patty LaCourse, who gifted LaCourse with her first ballet lessons and never missed a show.
These seniors have spent countless hours of choreography and rehearsal time to display their artistry with the community for the show, Eventide, and are thrilled to present their creative vision with you.
Tickets for the performance are No Charge for CSU students, $8 for youth (under 18), and $16 for seniors (62+), and $18 for adults. Tickets are available at the University Center for the Arts (UCA) ticket office in the UCA lobby Monday through Friday, 3:30-5:30 p.m. and 60 minutes prior to performances, by phone at (970) 491-ARTS (2787), or online at csuartstickets.com.