Time for a “Reset”

Dancers take the stage with innovative student choreography

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Photo by Maddie Ciliento ‘25.

A crowd of eager patrons filled the theater, chattering excitedly about the performances to come. As the final stragglers shimmied across aisles to their seats, the lights began to dim and a pair of bright pink gloves burst through the curtains and the night’s entertainment began. 

“Reset: New Dances” took place from Nov. 16-18 in Baker Theatre. Spectators gathered to watch 12 dances choreographed by the students of advanced dance composition. In the program, Director of the Co-Curriculum for Theatre & Dance and Artistic Director Robyn Watson emphasized that “Reset: New Dances” is an opportunity to “see what dance has been, is currently and could be.” 

The first dance of the night was “a performance,” choreographed by Dani Medvedovski ‘24. Medvedovski explained her inspiration for the piece: “Challenging performance as an art form, exploring the reconstruction of audience versus performer and questioning the legitimacy of ‘meaningful’ art.” In showcasing this, “a performance” featured a satirical representation of theatre etiquette, which Medvedovski explained was “an effort to break down these norms that we have all grown so accustomed and numb to.” Medvedovski recounted the influence the cast had on her choreography, emphasizing, “If I have taken away one thing from this process it is that the best work is created when dancers work as your artistic partners rather than merely as executors of your choreographic vision.” 

The second performance of the night was a highly engaging “I Decide,” choreographed by Gianna Carnevalino ‘24. The performance started with purple lighting and played with the silhouettes of dancers on stage, also featuring sound effects such as a car revving. 

This piece was followed by “Red Roses for You !!! (They could be poison ivy, they might be poison oak, But anyway here is your bouquet!)” by Katrina Binks ‘24. Bink’s inspiration came from the song “Te Quiero Dijiste” by Los Panchos, which motivated her to play into “the more uncomfortable and eerie parts of love songs and music that are seemingly not meant to be listened to as those things.” This was visually achieved using a mixture of blackout transitions and bright spotlights to make the story “feel cinematic, almost as if you were watching a silent film.” The piece was equal parts beautiful and haunting, with dancers in silk dresses, black gloves and red ribbon bows around their necks. It often featured spoken word, with dancers stating “He called me dark, twisted and mean… How sweet he’s in love.” 

“Red Roses for You!!!” was followed by “Forbidden Fruit: Cinnamon, Caramel, Chocolate.” This piece was choreographed by AnnaMaria Fernandez ‘24 and was described in the program as exploring “the process and consequences of making oneself digestible in the white world.” Fernandez spoke of the experience, stating, “My dancers and I had built a rapport that encouraged them to take shared ownership of the work and that translated on stage. I’ve never felt this level of pride for a piece of mine before and I truly believe that is a result of my collaborative creative process with my cast.”

The fifth piece of the night was “Texas Hold ‘Em,” choreographed by Marissa Haluch ‘24. Dancers wore red suit jackets and engaged in perhaps the most artistic card game ever seen, featuring Lady Gaga’s iconic “Poker Face.” “Texas Hold ‘Em” was followed by “Disclosing Integration,” choreographed by Kerry Kaufman ‘24. Staged in front of a sun background, dancers clad in earth tones sought to answer the question outlined in the program of “What would it look like to reclaim a part of yourself that shame led you to abandon?” 

Returning from intermission, patrons witness “On Becoming a Dream,” choreographed by Jane E. Carney ‘24. Carney described how “The process for making this piece was designed to imbed Emma [Millheim ‘24], Riley [Hammett ‘24], Maddy [Kroeper ‘27] and Maddy [Cilley ‘25’s] narratives into the work. On day one, I asked them to write about a time when dancing was difficult, and from there we made a list of adjectives that served as the poetry of this work.” The piece featured white tulle as a prop, which Carney revealed was representative of “the dream.” Carney commented on this, stating, “I was most looking forward to how the audience would interpret the end when Emma emerges out from under it [the tulle]: is she victorious? Lonely? Resolved?” 

Carney’s piece was followed by that of Alyssa Miles ‘25 titled “Ask the beautiful soul next you how their day was.” The piece featured performers sitting cross-legged on the stage and creating their own beat, with the repeated spoken word of “you are in this environment.” With perhaps the most direct audience participation of the night, viewers were then encouraged to follow along with their seating section’s “coach” for a real-life version of the video game “Just Dance.”

The ninth performance was titled “Template, if there is one,” choreographed by Danya Helperin ‘25. Helperin’s inspiration came from “the feeling of anticipating a loss and grieving before it happens as a result.” She recalled, “I experience this a lot when thinking about the things I’m grateful about, especially the people I’m close to, and I felt that I could only process it through presenting it as performance.” During the performance, the theatre appeared to shrink as attention was drawn to the two dancers, who made up the smallest cast of the show. The next piece was by Leanna Niesen ‘24 and titled “Sculpted By.” The program outlined its dedication to “the women who shape us.” The piece featured several moments where dancers would collectively pause in poses and then individuals would begin dances. “Sculpted By” was finished with the dancers’ screams of rage that stood out shockingly against the quiet theatre. 

The penultimate dance of the night, “Can Never Be Young Again,” was choreographed by Gnama Hartney ‘24. Glittering dancers took the stage playing childhood games like tag and duck, duck, goose before clocks sounded and they began to frantically clean the floors. After seeing the piece on stage, Hartney recalled, “[It] was just incredible. Knowing the process that led up to the show and getting to see all the different elements bring my vision to life was amazing.” Fiona Porter ‘27, one of Hartney’s cast members, illuminated her experience, sharing, “Working with her [Hartney] created an environment full of acceptance and encouragement, and I loved seeing her vision come to life. The performance itself was different from anything I’ve seen or been in before. The stage radiated creative energy and everyone seemed to feel strong and empowered.” The final dance was “In All My Glory,” choreographed by Lindsay Sherrick ‘25. The dance featured voice recordings from several members of the Muhlenberg community and strobe-like light effects. 

Audience member Lea Porotov ‘27 summed up the “Reset” experience when she said, “The unique elements and themes portrayed in each dance created a memorable performance that kept me absolutely captivated.” But it wasn’t only the audience who left feeling inspired, Reset: New Dances impacted all who took part. Performer Lucy Rudnick ‘27, shared that “‘Reset’ was a great debut show for me. It was inspiring to see and be a part of the incredible work done by the Advanced Composition class. I’m looking forward to my opportunity to choreograph for a department show in the future!”

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