The Baker Theatre delighted audience members this past weekend with “Reset: New Dances,” featuring works from 10 student choreographers who each highlighted their own unique artistic style and expressions of movement. “It was a glorious show that compelled me and kept me hooked from the first show to the last,” stated Ava Duskic ‘23, an audience member.
The choreographers were given full independence in developing their pieces and the themes they would like to highlight in collaboration with the over 50 dancers and other members of the creative and production team. Assistant Professor of Dance Natalie Gotter, the artistic director for the show, mentioned in the program, “Throughout the process, we have been asking ourselves, What does a reset look like?… As this generation of dancers grapples with questions of equity, care, labor and storytelling, I have been touched, inspired and deeply proud of the work and conversations that are being raised by these choreographers.” Marissa Cohen ‘25 served as the assistant artistic director for the pieces.
“I was given full freedom throughout the semester to embark on my own creative journey with the guidance of artistic director Natalie Gotter and my dance professors Randall Anthony Smith, Heidi Cruz-Austin and Robyn Watson. Although the theme of the show was ‘Reset,’ each of us choreographers interpreted the prompt in our own ways and we were able to pursue our artistic visions, wherever they took us,” stated Claire Spenard ‘23.
Spenard explored the idea of childhood and playfulness of toy soldiers with a physical representation of these props in her piece, “At Play.” The piece featured AnnaMaria Fernandez ‘24 and Amy Stapenhorst ‘24 with Spenard dancing as well due to health reasons for one of her dancers. Stapenhorst shared, “This piece felt like we found the movement first and then used our training to inform the movement and clarify it for the audience.”
“The process working with [Spenard] was one of the most collaborative and—for lack of a better word—ethnographic experiences I’ve had here at Muhlenberg,” stated Fernandez. “She had a really clear idea in mind and worked with us and our understanding of it to make it come to life.”
“It’s one thing to have a vision on your own but to share it with other invested artists is a gift.”– Claire Spenard ‘23
“The most rewarding part of the process was when my dancers felt juiced about the piece or excited to bring an idea to the table. When my dancers latched on to the work and felt connected to it in their own way this is when I felt the most rewarded. It’s one thing to have a vision on your own but to share it with other invested artists is a gift,” stated Spenard.
The collaborative process was also extended with other choreographers and dancers throughout the creative process, all of whom had the ability to make consequential creative decisions.
“We made decisions about the story/theme, costumes, music and lighting while choreographing the whole thing on top of that. It was a lot of decision making but it was the first time I had ever been in charge of putting together something like this,” stated Riley Hammett ‘23, the choreographer of “Miles Unraveled.”
“Rehearsals with Riley were a space for positivity, good vibes, collaboration and support. Tap dance can be a difficult learning and creating process because filling up an eight count for a modern dance could be a prep and a turn, in tap dance, you could be making 20 sounds. [Hammett] definitely used that ability to fill up an eight-count with sound, making the dance really challenging but amazing,” stated Erika Dubin ‘23, a dancer in “Miles Unraveled.”
Head theatre technician Paul Theisen crafted the lighting design for the show in collaboration with the choreographers. Kiana Grella ’23 served as the costume designer for the piece and allowed for the stories and themes of each piece to be represented while still making the clothing flexible for dancers and movement.
Dancers were able to be in multiple pieces as well and experience different movements based on each choreographer and their artistic process. The only central guideline for the show was the name “Reset.”
“Each cast was really special to me as well.”– Molly Layden ‘24
“The choreographic process for both the pieces I performed in were really unique and special in their own ways, especially because they were two completely different movement qualities,” stated Molly Layden ‘24. “Each cast was really special to me as well.” Layden participated in Hammett’s piece along with Ruthy Freeberg’s ‘23 piece “Loved Out of Being.”
Leanna Niesen ‘24 was the production stage manager and described how the process was exciting for them thanks to the new opportunity of being a dance stage manager.
“My process as the production stage manager of ‘Reset’ was really amazing and rewarding. I have never worked on a dance show before so it was very new for me… I would say probably the biggest challenge doing this show as opposed to other shows I’ve done was just the size of it. We had such a huge cast, we had more than fifty dancers working on the show and just keeping track of all those people and their conflicts and all of that was definitely a challenge for me, but it was also really rewarding for me, especially as a dance major myself. Getting to work with other dance students and getting to work with other choreographers was really fantastic,” stated Niesen.
Layden concluded, “Getting to see all of the hard work of the choreographers and dancers come to life was absolutely incredible, especially seeing them evolve each night of tech, as well as over the semester’s worth of rehearsals. Every single piece was so dynamic and exciting and so individual to each choreographer, you could really see each of them shine through in the movement.”