Spring Dance Concert at Sweet Briar weaves Beethoven, ‘apocalyptic feel’ and teamwork into new vision

Posted on March 28, 2019 by Janika Carey

Dance stage Rachel Barnes (from left), Haylei Libran and Olympia LeHota. Photo by Andrew Wilds

Sweet Briar College faculty and students will present their annual Spring Dance Concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 5, and Saturday, April 6, in Murchison Lane Auditorium in the Babcock Fine Arts Center. The event is free and open to the public.

As usual, the concert will include a range of group and solo dances choreographed and performed by Sweet Briar dance faculty and students. Professor of Dance Ella Magruder’s “E Pluribus” is a group piece that “explores combinations and permutations of zestful motion,” says husband and fellow dance professor, Mark Magruder. “Ella choreographed the first section for the fall 2018 dance concert as a quartet and has expanded the number of dancers to six for the full Beethoven Sonata in F major, Op. 2, arranged for strings by Jeffrey L. Briggs,” he added.

Mark’s “Shelter” is a dance for five dancers. In it, intriguing structures “form a space for the dancers to inhabit and manipulate,” Mark says. “Some risk is involved as the dancers move the objects around and they balance on, leap over and slide under the sculptural shapes they form. The work has a slight apocalyptic feel at the start but through the strong sense of working together, a new vision is formed.” As he has done many times in the past, Mark created the music for this piece and will perform it live on stage.

Rachel Rachel Barnes. Photo by Andrew Wilds

Sweet Briar students Taylor Jefferson, Olympia LeHota, Haylei Libran, Rachel Barnes, Jordan Sack, Mary Parker, Tamia Jackson, Mekiah Minor and Meenakshi Verma will all star in the concert and have each choreographed a group or solo dance.

“iMatter” is a modern solo choreographed by Mekiah Minor ’22 from Upper Marlboro, Md., that exhibits how she feels in today’s society as a young African-American woman.

Jordan Sack ’20, a musical theatre major and dance minor (B.F.A. candidate) from Chester, Conn., is working on a piece she is currently calling “You Are Not Alone.” The theme: a combination of friendship and sisterhood. “I was inspired by the sisterhood at Sweet Briar and how even when it feels as though you are completely alone in the universe, there is always someone there to help you and lend a shoulder to cry on,” she said.

Another dance is called “Battlefield,” choreographed by Brooklyn native Tamia Jackson ’21, who moved to Richmond in middle school. “My dance is about girls just having fun, having a dance battle,” Jackson said. “At the end, we are all winners. Women tend to always go to war with each other, but there’s not just one winner. In my piece, we all will win and succeed.”

Jackson says the #MeToo movement inspired her to come up with the theme. “They are all women who’ve come together and pushed each other to get out and speak. The fact that they came together is amazing — most women, especially my age, don’t often want to help their peers. But not me — I want to see every woman succeed, and I want to be there to help and push so we can all win!”

Fellow sophomore Mary Parker, also from Richmond, has choreographed one solo and a group piece. The latter is “inspired by myths and legends about creatures like sirens, maenads and other female figures that use beauty to enrapture and cause trouble for anyone who stumbles upon them,” Parker explained. “My dance follows four such characters through their plan to capture and take down a curious adventurer while also showing the power dynamic of the group itself. My goal was to combine traditionally feminine beauty with creepy horror-like aspects to create a discordance in the choreography. I like to think of it as ‘Tinkerbell meets the Exorcist.’”

Her solo is a “much lighter piece” meant to entertain, with lots of “pop culture dance moves” and “campy facial expressions.” The result? A “joyful and upbeat dance,” Parker says.

For more information, email Mark Magruder at mmagruder@sbc.edu.