“Ballet at the BCT: The Choreography Project” will take place at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. The free event will showcase the work of student choreographers in the IU Ballet Department.
Thirty-four choreographers auditioned for the show, and 21 were chosen.
Director Sasha Janes said his role in the show has been to guide choreographers in their pieces. He is there to make suggestions on the structure of pieces, rather than on the content of students’ dances.
“It has to be their piece,” he said.
Junior Nicholas Gray choreographed a dance called “Choosing Happiness.” The piece features two songs by folk band Birdtalker, “Heavy” and “Want.”
Gray said he classifies his dance as something you’d see more on a theater stage than a ballet stage. A challenge for him was getting his dancers to go back to what it’s like to dance as a human in the community, rather than a ballet dancer.
Gray said he tried to spend most of his time fostering intention in his dancers, and getting an emotional response from them, instead of working on perfecting moves in the style he choreographed. He said he hopes the dance is a cathartic experience for both his dancers and the audience.
“I think, because it’s not super about the dance technique and such, they have to really hit it home with the message and the meaning,” he said.
Sophomore Claire Donovan picked out the music for her piece in December and began choreographing it a month ago. Her piece, called “Blues Run the Game,” features a song by the same title.
The dance is a pas de deux, a dance between a boy and a girl, she said. In the dance, you can’t tell who is giving who depression, or the blues.
“If you have ever known anyone with depression, like even if you get better, you still carry it with you,” she said.
Both Gray and Donovan are performing in other dances in the showcase.
Donovan said with dancing, it’s about repeating movements and perfecting it. Ballet dancing and choreography can both be an emotional outlet, she said, but choreography is an outlet in a different way.
"You’re deciding what other people are going to do, so it’s more natural and unique to what you want, as opposed to when you’re dancing, you’re creating that movement from what other people want you to be doing,” she said.
Donovan said sometimes it’s difficult to choreograph when you have an idea for a dance.
“It’s almost like writer’s block, you feel like you can’t get it out,” she said.
She said when going from dancing all day in regular dance classes to choreographing a dance, she got stuck in the same movements. She said it’s helpful when you teach the dancers the dance and they can help you move on and get out of your head.
Janes said audiences can expect an eclectic array of movement at the show, and that many of the dancers have strong voices.
“Some of them are just experimenting with movement, but some of them have something that they want to say with regard to their movement,” Janes said.
Gray said his piece features dancers wearing backpacks of different colors. In the first section of the piece, the dancers come forward to express something they want and are sad in some way. The backpacks represent their burdens, which they throw off in the second section of the piece.
The original title of the piece was supposed to be pessimistic, he said. He changed it to represent choosing to be happy.
“I think that I’ve adopted that attitude in my life as well,” he said.