Dancers dynamic: UB's Zodiaque Dance Company rehearses for 43rd spring season
The contemporary and classical will soon morph together as dancers get ready on stage in the Center for the Arts.
The Zodiaque Dance Company, presented by the Theatre and Dance Department, has been a tradition at UB where students artfully exhibit various forms of dance. The company premiers their spring season on Wednesday in the Drama Theatre but rehearsals began a week before classes started this semester.
Kerry Ring, a clinical asst. professor in the Theatre and Dance department, is directing the spring program. Ring said that Zodiaque Dance Company is a very elite group of dancers – there is a large number of dance majors and only 24 students perform with the company.
“We have lots of opportunities for dance majors to perform in other venues but this is a very specific commitment that they’re making and so often when they make the cast list they say yes,” Ring said.
Zodiaque dancers are given the unique opportunity to perform with locally and nationally skilled choreographers.
Ring started directing the program last fall. She is trying to carry on the tradition Thomas Ralabate and Tressa Gorman-Crehan established as directors for over 15 years.
“It’s an honor to be working with these dancers and to have a platform for not only my choreography but my inner drive to make those connections with the Buffalo community and also with the UB community,” Ring said.
Rehearsals are a heavy commitment for dancers – four-hour practices extend to eight and even 12 hours. Some of the dancers in Zodiaque also have exams the same week as the show’s run, so time management a must for performers.
Christiana Buckley, a senior BFA dance major with a theatre minor, is preparing to dance in pieces like Jennna DelMonte’s “Gypsy Blue” and Richard Ashworth’s tap-infused “Koop Island Groove.”
Buckley is one of the student assistants to the director and believes auditioning for Zodiaque Dance Company is a nerve-wracking process.
“The audition process gets stressful because we know that it is a huge honor to become part of the company,” Buckley said. “Becoming a Zodiaque dancer, it gives us more opportunities to perform and work with professional choreographers. It's a pre-professional company, so it gives us experience for our future endeavors.”
Deja Stevens, a senior dance major, will be dancing again after she first performed with Zodiaque in the fall.
Stevens believes she has a lot more confidence going into the spring show and that cast members have the opportunity to develop more trust on stage in the spring.
“If you want to pursue a career in dance, having a strong network is essential for you to excel in this field,” Stevens said. “For us, having the opportunity to work with different choreographers for anything longer than a master class is a pretty big deal – you never know what opportunities are going to unfold in the future.”
The show also features lighting by Jeremiah King, a senior design technology major and costumes by guest designer Jen Dasher.
Dasher worked with Professor Jon Shimon to construct garb with LED lighting for the show. The lighting is thanks in part to the Morris Visiting Artist Fund, which let computer science and theatre design technology students code and create the costumes.
Buckley is in one of the performances that uses LED-lighted costumes, “A Minor Expression” by director Kerry Ring.
“It’s motion and sound-censored and we’re actually going to be practicing them tonight for, me, the first time so there’s going to be beauty in the lights in addition to the physique of the body,” Buckley said.
Cody Holland, a senior dance major, is also in one of the pieces with LED lighting – “Undertow” – which ischoreographed by Anne Burnidge and dancers.
“Her piece is about bio-luminescence, so she really wanted us to strike a chord with the different chord with the sea animals in the dark waters [involved] in the piece,” Holland said.
Other students are in a multitude of pieces on-stage. Rachel Latke, a junior BFA dance major with a business minor, is in two modern pieces and one choreographed by adjunct faculty member Jon Lehrer.
Latke said “Loose Cannon,” the Lehrer piece, is one that he choreographed for his Buffalo-based company Lehrer Dance.
“It’s a comedy piece and it was a challenge for me. Even though I’m really super funny and outgoing, to dance and also have that performance aspect of it in the storyline was a really big challenge but it was super fun,” Latke said.
The amount of work and layers that go into the show is indicative of the talent imprinted within Zodiaque and the UB Dance Program.
“The Dance program’s motto is ‘versatility matters’ and our whole curriculum is based on all the different forms of dance – in ballet, modern, tap and jazz,” Ring said. “As the director, it’s really my goal to highlight that versatility and also educate the dancers in the company by broadening their experience, as well.”
The Zodiaque Dance Company’s run begins on March 1 and ends on March 5, with tickets selling for $10 with a student ID.
Ben is the assistant arts editor and can be reached a firstname.lastname@example.org