The University of South Carolina Dept. of Theatre and Dance will present the USC Dance Company in an evening-length original work, …To Be a Part of Something, February 12-15 at Drayton Hall Theatre.
Conceived and created by a team of theatre and dance faculty, …To Be a Part of Something is an evening fusing innovative contemporary dance and original video projections to explore aspects of human communication in the modern world. As the work progresses through themes of community, love, conflict and loss, the audience is led on an evolutionary journey that reveals how, even in today’s complex digital age, a fundamentally human need for connection remains.
The creation of an evening-length original work is unusual for the dance program’s annual spring concert, which historically features a selection of unrelated dance pieces. The bold idea had its genesis in the fall of 2019, when choreographers Jennifer Deckert, André Megerdichian and Olivia Waldrop decided to collaborate on an original piece. Soon after, they invited videographer Dustin Whitehead and costume designer Kristy Hall into the creative circle.
“We started with a conversation about how we communicate and share stories,” says associate professor Deckert, “and how in our present time the way we connect with our fellow humans is often disconnected.”
“Another part of this narrative is that love is love, and no matter how large we are as a digital planet, people will always find each other."
However, the point of the work isn’t to stage a diatribe against technology, says assistant professor Megerdichian. “Another part of this narrative is that love is love, and no matter how large we are as a digital planet, people will always find each other,” he says.
The team has assembled a cast of 44 dancers for the performance, who are also intimately involved in its creation.
“This type of devised work is the direction that a lot of the professional performing arts world is heading in,” says Deckert. “This is a huge opportunity to teach our students that it’s not always the case that a choreographer will show up and just give you the work. It’s more often that everyone is in a room saying, ‘OK, what can we do?’”
Professor Hall concurs. “It’s giving ownership to the artist. In this process, the student artist is allowed to have a feeling and an opinion about their immediate response to the piece. It’s validating a young artist’s instincts, and I think that’s a good balance to the other kind of repertory work we’re seeing in the rest the season.”
Additional contributors to the evening are students Charlie Eaton and Alexander Wyatt, who are working with Whitehead on creating original video content to be projected throughout the evening, and assistant costumer Kathleen Castell.
The underlying message to all – performers and audience members alike – is that no one is alone. Whether one is part of telling a story or on the receiving end, we’re all connected and needed.
“I want the audience to see themselves and feel less alone,” says Hall. “That’s why we’re not rejecting technology in this work. It’s such an important part of people’s lives today, and that shouldn’t be a point of shame, but a point of excitement and creation of community.”
For more information about …To Be a Part of Something or the dance program at the University of South Carolina, contact Kevin Bush by phone at 803-777-9353 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.