'Celebration 45' illuminates the history and achievements of Zodiaque

Zodiaque Dance Company celebrates alumni, 45-year history with new season

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The Theatre and Dance department’s talent was on display with Zodiaque Dance Company’s “Celebration 45” performances last weekend. 

This year marks the elite dance company’s 45th anniversary. Zodiaque is known for its proficiency in a variety of styles. “Celebration 45” showcased this level of variation, as the performances offered modern, musical theater, lyrical and other styles of dance from Nov. 15-18 in the CFA’s Drama Theatre. 

This year's performance had heavy influence from alumni and aided in both choreography and directing. Pieces like “Conscious Conscience,” choreographed by ’07 alum Richard Ashworth, highlighted exciting body percussion and orchestration. Performers danced at the edge of the stage, which heightened audience inclusion. 

But Ashworth’s piece was not the only number choreographed by alumni. 

Other alumni contributing pieces to the concert were ’01 alum Chanon Judson, and clinical assistant professor of dance, Danielle Sheather. 

Sheather choreographed the performance opener, “Corvus.” The piece took inspiration from the mannerisms of crows. Dancers performed bird-like, soaring movements, while others had slight swaying motions, evoking the image of a cornfield.

The show began with a slideshow of photos from the group’s performances in 1973 to today, honoring its history and achievements.

Director Kerry Ring sees this year’s performance as encompassing the group’s history, and focused on preserving the tradition of Zodiaque Dance.

“I think the themes for this year’s Zodiaque concerts is really just to celebrate all that Zodiaque has become over its 45 years,” Ring said. “What I’m trying to showcase is the ability to navigate through many different styles of dance.”

Ring thinks the performances themselves spoke “many different languages,” and cover a diverse set of themes with ballet, modern, hip-hop and jazz-style performances infused in the set.

Josephine Morgan, a freshman music theatre major, was impressed with the varying styles in the show. She appreciated that she was able to see the emotion behind every performance.

“I felt like I saw human beings rather than ‘performers’” Morgan said, “They all seemed really passionate about their work.”

Judson’s piece, “A Change Gone Come” felt empowering with a message of striving for change in society. The piece incorporated inspirational speeches that discussed the hope for a better world, while the dancer’s stomp-like movements created a feeling of intensity and determination.

Nitya Seshadri Vedantam, a graduate student in the dance department, also choreographed a piece, “Petals of Silence, Fires of Insurrection.” This dance included movements based off of the Indian classical dance-style Bharatanatyam. The use of flower petals in the dance made the number a stunning end to act one.

But the focus on students and alumni didn’t end with the choreography. 

The lighting in various numbers was split between Andrew DG Hunt and Tannis Kapell, two UB Theatre and Dance alumni. Their lighting designs featured silhouettes and spotlights, creating vibrant scenes. 

Hunt’s work on the piece “Conscious Conscience” brought coordinated lights with the rhythmic movements. 

Zodiaque dancers took their bows to immense applause as another photo collage emblazoned the screen at the show’s end. This time, the voice recordings from Zodiaque alumni played over the pictures. They discussed how their time in the group influenced their current lives and congratulated the company for reaching its 45th anniversary.

Julianna Tracey is a contributing writer and can be reached at arts@ubspectrum.com.