When dance goes digital at WFU

Dance at Wake

In mid-January, a 3-hour dance audition was held in studio D101. 50 Wake Forest students were selected by 12 student choreographers to perform in the Spring Dance Concert – a usually sold-out event held on the University’s Tedford Stage in Scales Fine Arts Center.

Then everything closed down.

Dance professor Kara Wilkes said she saw the move to remote learning as an opportunity for students to engage dance as a tool for processing change.

Wilkes taught modern dance and contemporary ballet this semester. One remote assignment was to film a 45-second self-choreographed work with only the upper body. Another was to choose an inanimate prop and incorporate it into a one-minute dance.

“I adjusted the syllabus to be sensitive to physical space and technology limitations that our students might face. Giving the students agency to choreograph allowed many to express what they have been experiencing during this pandemic.” Kara Wilkes

During an online meeting with the dancers selected to perform in the canceled dance concert, senior Kamryn King, a health and exercise science major, suggested that, since they couldn’t dance on stage together, they do something simple and good for morale to share with others.

Wilkes, who enjoys editing short films and documentaries, volunteered to put together a video – not to replace the performance but as an act of generosity from the dancers. “I thought it would be a fun, uplifting, light project,” said Wilkes.

Some of the clips in the video are from the home improvisation assignments, and some students filmed new work. Accompanist, Chi Sharpe, who played for various dance courses this spring also contributed.

“I had a funk song in mind as background music for the dance clips. But when I started to edit, I noticed that many students had to push play on their device, step back and wait a moment before beginning. I was stunned by how beautiful and vulnerable that moment was before they started dancing. It was clear the piece needed to go deeper.”

For King, the dance video was an acknowledgment of the adaptability and resilience of Wake’s dance community. “Being a part of the work reminded me that I will always have this dance family no matter the distance or the circumstances that may divide us.”

This dance video created this spring by WFU students and faculty has been viewed nearly 20,000 times across social media.

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