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Since the beginning of last semester, the Weber State University Dance Company has been preparing for an opportunity to perform among professional dance companies at the Dance Mission Theater in San Francisco this May.
“They are learning professional works, creating original choreography, fundraising, and are involved in every step of doing a professional presentation,” said Amanda Sowerby, director of the WSU Dance Company.
The dancers often compete in university-level festivals, Sowerby said, but this particular opportunity is quite different. WSU will be the only university presenting at the event.
Sowerby said she believes performing in this professional venue gives the dancers a competitive edge for their future efforts, because not many college students get this kind of opportunity.
“It is very important to have a professional presentation on their resume,” Sowerby said. “I went through a bachelor’s and master’s in dance and never learned that, so it has been my goal to give them this professional experience while they are still in the safeguard and protection of academia.”
Although the dancers are still students, Sowerby said, they are preparing much like any professional dancers would for this kind of performance. They have submitted grants and gotten funding from the WSU Student Association and the Lindquist College of Arts and Humanities. However, a large amount of the funding for the trip will come out of the individual dancers’ pockets. Sowerby said she believes that, by investing in this opportunity, the dancers will understand the personal responsibility that comes with being a professional dancer.
“Oftentimes in higher educations, the professor finds the opportunities for the dancers,” Sowerby said. “I think it’s important for them to learn that they have to make their own opportunities.”
This motivation has pushed the students to find different ways to raise the money necessary for the travel expenses. They have created a fundraising page on Kickstarter.com, where individuals can pledge specific quantities ranging from $1-$500. At the end of a 30-day fundraising allowance, Kickstarter.com will send the raised funds to the group if their fundraising goal is met. Otherwise, the money will be refunded to those who donated.
“We have all been sharing (the link) on Facebook,” said WSU senior Alicia Trump, one of the dancers. “But beyond that, we’ve talked about maybe performing in the union or throughout campus to raise money.”
A few of the dancers will perform original pieces they choreographed themselves. Two of the pieces that will be performed in San Francisco were choreographed by professional dancers — Charlotte Boye-Christensen and Sarah Donohue.
Boye-Christensen has been a freelance choreographer, teacher and dancer for the past 15 years. She has created works for many well-known dance groups, including Ballet West, Singapore Dance Theatre and the Milwaukee Ballet. Donohue dances professionally with the Repertory Dance Theatre and has taught and choreographed throughout the Western states. The WSU Dance Company will perform a piece called “Stirrings,” choreographed by Boye-Christensen, and one called “A How-To Guide,” choreographed by Donohue.
“It feels so good to do works from these prestigious people, and it helps us to have real-world experience,” Trump said.
Sowerby said she hopes that participating in a professional performance will teach the dancers about the effort it takes to be a professional dancer and give them a meaningful experience that will remain in their memories for a long time.
“This group has had a lot of opportunity to work together,” said Amelia Martinez, one of the dancers. “I feel like that has helped us all learn to work in a company.”