Dancers use campus as their stage

Dancers use campus as their stage

Matumbe Himmons sits on a branch above performers Kurk Nance and Jessica Puckett as they dance below the giant oak tree behind Southern Hall. Zachary Odom/Printz

Matumbe Himmons sits on a branch above performers Kurk Nance and Jessica Puckett as they dance below the giant oak tree behind Southern Hall.
Zachary Odom/Printz

The department of dance held its first “Dance Tour Around Campus” last Friday and Saturday, starting their fall season with works by students and faculty.

After last year’s tornado destroyed the usual venue for these performances, Mannoni Hall, the dance department began hosting their events in non-traditional places. In 2012, they performed at different locations in Hattiesburg, but this year the focus was on campus with four different dances at various locations.

The tour started in front of Kennard-Washington Hall with “Beneath the Brachials” by Suanne Messer. Next, attendants were led to the front of the library for “Among these Bricks” by Casie Marsh. The audience was then led to the green area next to Johnson Science Tower to watch “Here, not far away, yet all the distance in the world” by Elizabeth Lentz. The tour ended in the Thad Cochran Center with “LOL (Looking for Love)” by Eunice Wambari.

This event is the first of four events planned for the department of dance this semester. The second event, “Mark’d in Time,” is a concert at the Thirsty Hippo on Oct. 23 and 24. The third is “Dance for Film,” at the Boardwalk Apartments movie theater on Nov. 8 and 9, and the final performance is a traditional concert on Dec. 5 -7 on campus.

“We definitely think our students are seeing the breath of modern dance choreography,” said Elizabeth Lentz, assistant professor of dance.

“I think it’s a different point of view for the audience,”  said Eunice Wambari, senior dance performance and dance choreography double major. “Because they aren’t sitting down waiting for a show to happen. They are actually like close up, almost in reach of the dancers. It’s so close and personal. It’s such a different feel of what dance really is.”

Choreographers and dancers had to adjust to working in non-traditional spaces. “We’ve already had people just walking by in the middle of rehearsal,” said Brooke Baggett, senior dance education major and  one of the tour’s dancers. “They’d just walk through the site while we were dancing.”

“I’ve had a lot of authorities saying we can’t rehearse in that space,” Wambari said. “It’s been very frustrating to not be able to do our art there.”

On the day of the event there were no issues. “It ran pretty smoothly,” said Leslie Guyton, a sophomore  dance education major and stage manager for “LOL.” “We were on time and it ran great and I feel the production team put in what they needed to put in.”

The entire tour cost $5 and lasted an hour. At every site there were onlookers who were passing through and stopped to watch.

“Like the lunch lady came out and watched, but she didn’t get to see the whole campus tour that we were trying to put out,” Guyton said. “If you pay the full five dollars then you get the full experience of what the USM dance represents.”

For more information about the USM’s Department of Dance visit usm.edu/dance.

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