MDA gets hooked on “Digital Dopamine”

MDA presents a student choreographed concert

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The cast of "#fyp #foryou #foryoupage" // Photo by Rebecca Clark '23

Technology changes and evolves every single day, and along with it so does one’s relationship with it. Whether it is for school, work or entertainment, technology has found its way to be ingrained in many portions of one’s life. This is especially true in recent years where, in the midst of COVID, virtual interaction may be the only safe way of communication for some people. Observing this world we live in got the wheels turning in the heads of Gianna Carnevalino ‘23 and Visiting Professor of Dance Natalie Gotter, who came together to direct the Muhlenberg Dance Association’s concert “Digital Dopamine.” The show sought to tackle these questions about the world through the medium of dance, seeing the ups and downs of technology, the different ways it affects different people, and questioning the place of technology in our world as a whole. Along with this, every piece in the concert was choreographed and performed by students making this show unique both in the themes and the production.

Having student choreographers allowed for a wide range of perspectives to be shown, especially from a generation that is arguably most affected by this new technological age. Choreographer Bekka Broyles ‘22 described the process in creating her piece “Call Me Back” from Broyles’  perspective. “I wanted to create a piece about how technology connects us. I’m from Texas, so I’ve had to maintain a lot of my relationships over FaceTime, texts and calls. Drawing from my own experience and the experiences of my cast, which featured relationships between siblings, parents, friends, partners and teachers.” Broyles’ unique perspective on the uses of technology allowed her to create a unique piece for “Digital Dopamine” that featured original piano composition that was paired with voicemails from the cast themselves, allowing the dancers not only the chance to dance to the music but dance to spoken word as well, something not seen in most dance pieces.

“I wanted to create a piece about how technology connects us.”

– Bekka Broyles ‘22

Talking about uniqueness, this feeling didn’t extend to just the dancers but to the crew as well. Lighting Designer and Production Stage Manager Sam Powers ‘22 commented that, “Seeing each choreographer’s vision come to life on stage was magical.” Powers has worked on countless productions at Muhlenberg, but interestingly enough this was his first dance show. Powers said, “I am happy that I got the opportunity to work so closely with my fellow students before I graduate in May. This production really allowed me to explore beyond the typical theatrical conventions of lighting a show which made it so rewarding to see the final product.”

Another piece, “Match,” choreographed by Nicole Lamprinos ‘24, presents a similar yet different take on technology. Lamprinos talked about her process in making this piece saying, “To me, [technology] is a very large and nuanced topic which inspired me to take a lighthearted and humorous approach.” Lamprinos set her piece to Nat King Cole’s “L-O-V-E” and with two dancers on stage, Riley Overton ‘24 and Samantha Torrillo ‘25 (with Melanie Halbert ‘24 as an understudy), Lamprinos showed the way technology can be used as a tool to create and foster relationships. This choice in the song was wonderfully on the nose and executed. Lamprinos also commented, “A fun memory from the show was hearing the audience laugh at the ending pose of my piece each show!”

Throughout every piece, the idea of collaboration between the choreographer and dancers is very clear. For Erika Dubin ‘22, collaboration was a key part of the process in choreographing her piece, “Disengagementship.” Dubin talked about the process in making her piece and how in her mind, “Technology is not just good or bad. It is complicated, as are most things.” Dubin continued on how she worked to present this mindset on technology with her dancers. “Change, adapt, and create what came to be my dance. One of my favorite things is being able to come up with an idea and watch it grow into something more. Movement can look so different in my head, and once it is put on other bodies, it changes the storyline and what I could have originally meant the movement to be. Tap dance specifically can be challenging as movements can be less gestural but are more telling through sound and rhythm. I told my story of communication through the separation and synchronicity of sound.”

“The whole creative process of this show was extremely collaborative between dancer and choreographer.”

– Anna Wren Dahbura ‘25

Anna Wren Dahbura ‘25, a performer in “numbing – numb – denumbing” stated, “I found working with a student choreographer to be extremely refreshing. The whole creative process of this show was extremely collaborative between dancer and choreographer. Throughout the rehearsal process my castmates and I were graciously provided creative freedom for certain parts of the piece. Having creative liberty in this setting truly made it much easier for me to relate to the content being assembled and further performed.”

“Performance is a craft that truly relies on other energies in a space to increase productivity. This show truly wouldn’t be possible without the hard work and dedication that was put into each and every detail, it was truly a pleasure working with everyone,” finalized Wren Dahbura.

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