A display of students' best choreography ensues with 'Dance Alabama!'

A display of students' best choreography ensues with 'Dance Alabama!'
Photo courtesy of Emma Schenkenberger

By Serena Bailey | Staff Reporter

Even though McKenzie Sherman has worked with Dance Alabama! on and off since her freshman year, this week will mark her first time choreographing for the organization. Like her fellow dancers and choreographers, she’s been working on her piece since August – casting, staging and rehearsing it to make sure it’s ready. 

“There are certain rehearsals that you're standing there and you're kind of getting frustrated or having a bad day and you're thinking 'this is never going to come together,'” said Sherman, a senior majoring in dance and psychology. “And finally when you see it on stage during tech or during the dress rehearsals, it's reassuring that it's all going to be okay and that you worked hard and that it's paid off.”

Sherman’s is just one of the pieces that will be a part of the Dance Alabama! fall showcase in Morgan Auditorium Tuesday, Nov. 7,  through Nov. 10. Dancers from across campus will perform over two dozen pieces that they've choreographed, staged and lit. 

“The fact that students are able to work with students and make it effective learning environment for choreographers and dancers alike, I think it's just a great experience to have while you’re in college before you dive into the professional world,” Sherman said. 

Dance Alabama! also offers the dancers and choreographers a space to try something new, said Dance Alabama! president Alexia Acebo.

“I think the majority of people have really tried to push themselves,” said Acebo, a senior majoring in dance and psychology. “It's a perfect space. We really have the opportunity to try something new each time because the stakes aren't super high to where you're trying to make a grade… no one's doing the same things over and over again.”  

That’s one of things that Drew Martin, a sophomore majoring in chemical engineering and dance, enjoys most about working with the group.

“I like getting to see what people create because everybody does different things and they're all unique and creative in their own ways,” he said. “I like seeing people step out of their bubbles and their boundaries and try new things.”

That feeling of experimentation is what drives the show, said Alexandra Mannings, vice president of Dance Alabama! and a senior majoring in dance and physics.

“I think it's a great time, a great place and environment to just explore different ideas and different parts of yourself in a safe space where you get great feedback from, not only your peers but also the faculty,” she said. “You kind of just home in on your voice and what you want to say and how you want to say it.”

For Mannings, it’s also about building on prior experiences and growing as a performer. 

“A lot of times after I've choreographed, I looked back and I'm like, 'I don't really like that anymore,'” she said. “But it gives you a chance to say, ‘Okay, this is what I did do, but now what can I try next...’ Even just seeing it on stage it kind of propels you forward into the next thing, to the next idea. It's nice to enjoy it, to live in it a little bit, but then you ask what's next.” 

Working with fellow Dance Alabama! members is also like working with family, said Madison Fendley, a senior majoring in dance and political science.  

“This week is a chance to bring everyone together,” Fendley said. “We have this whole week of tech and then a whole week of shows so it really just brings everyone together and makes all of us really close. It really is like a little family by the end of it… They're my people. These are my best friends, the people I'm going to be with for the rest of my life, so it's really giving me my family here on campus.” 

The fall Dance Alabama! showcase will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Friday’s performance will start at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults, $17 for faculty, staff and seniors and $14 for students. They can be purchased at theatre.ua.edu.

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