Dancing, striving to become a professional in the arts and executing those plans can be mentally and physically exhausting. For dancers, this means hours upon hours of work on the daily. Performers spend anywhere from months to only a couple of weeks preparing themselves for just a few shows; the pay-off, a thrill in the chest, is normally worth all of the effort.
The H2 dance company, a pre-professional dance company at Hope College, had its fall concert last weekend on Oct. 28 and 29. There are still more opportunities to go see the show next weekend, Nov. 4 and 5.
Striketime, Hope’s other dance company, performs their live dance event for children on Nov. 5 as well. StrikeTime is an older company, existing since the 1980s, and is performed for more of an outreach or elementary audience. Both companies require an audition to get in, however, H2 is the more competitive dance company at Hope. H2 currently has students from sophomore, junior and senior years, but usually, the company contains more upperclassmen as it is very difficult to get into it as a sophomore.
According to the H2 co-director, Matthew Farmer, these dancers partook in a summer H2 intensive to start learning the choreography two weeks before classes began. Rehearsals lasted from 9 am to 8 pm each day as the dances, so intricate and difficult, took until two weeks before opening night to finish and learn choreography.
What You Can Expect to See at the Concert
The fall concert featured four pieces by H2, including different styles from their repertory, each fitting into a theme of community. Farmer, and fellow co-artistic director, Jasmine Mejia, prompt the question of “who is our community?” through their choreography. They consider all of the technology consumed and isolation post-pandemic and how this is changing the way we communicate. The series of dances explores “both lighthearted and more serious aspects” of how our community has changed in the past two years, “becoming more heartfelt and less tied to physical proximity.”
H2 presents the example of the dance community on a global scale as well, through a partnership with the Universidad de Especialidades Espíritu Santo in Ecuador. The dancers are coming to Holland to present their pieces during the Nov. 4 and 5 H2 performances. Hope has previously partnered with a sister university in Mexico, but this is the first time that the college has partnered with this dance company from Ecuador.
The concert opens with a thirty minute piece called “The Rite of Spring,” choreographed by Farmer. The full H2 company performs for most of the half hour, just running off stage briefly before dancing across the stage again. This first dance makes up the entirety of the first act and starts the concert with the darker side of community. The dancer’s costumes are gray flowing t-shirts with dark dyed edges and the shirts are paired with black dance shorts and black knee pads. The knee pads accentuate the sharp look of bent knees repeated in the choreography. The repetition of bent knees and elbows contrasts with fluid and flowing movements while the dancers portray scenes of battle and exploration, prompting feelings of fear, despair, confusion, peace, loss, distraction, and determination.
While the dance was performed beautifully and full of emotion, it provided many challenges for both dancers and choreographers. Farmer said that it was “hard to set up a scene with the movement because the music keeps changing so quickly and so often.”
Indeed there is great history surrounding “The Rite of Spring” musical piece, not only proving to be a hard piece for the orchestra to play but was also very controversial, even causing riots when it was first performed in 1913, because “it was so different than what classical ballet had been” at the time. The sudden changes in the music were challenging not only for choreography but also for dancers as it can be hard to find the rhythms that suddenly change and yet are so similar to other moments in the dance. Not only is there difficulty in the music, but the intense and impressive choreography lasts for 30 long minutes, which can be physically and mentally exhausting.
The other pieces in act two, a classical jazz, a contemporary, and an afro-fusion piece, all highlight other aspects of community. The classical jazz piece, titled “Uptown” and choreographed by Sharon Wong, showcased five dancers in bright colors and upbeat music illustrating how a community can support and lift each other up.
The concert closes with an afro-fusion piece called “Stomping Ground,” choreographed by co-artistic director Mejia in collaboration with the dancers. This piece also highlighted a more upbeat and positive outlook on community.
Elayna Sitzman (‘23), one of the dancers performing in “Stomping Ground,” said that this piece is about “community, whether it be finding a group or a clique or even separating oneself from a community. We get to work with some incredibly rich and upbeat music… which helps to get me through such a cardio-intense piece!”
Sitzman is a Dance and Spanish double major and is in her second year in H2 and through her experience with the company she said, “It’s been really fun to see the company grow and change with different members.” Sitzman said practicing for the performances was intense but “truly it’s a fun dance to close the show on and I’m very grateful to be a part of it. This is a truly wonderful performance that we’ve dedicated countless hours towards. I would love for anyone on Hope’s campus to join us at Knickerbocker Theatre Friday and/or Saturday night!” Having the guest performers from Ecuador is “such a unique opportunity and I would highly encourage everyone to see us dance!”
The entire concert is a beautiful journey of color and emotion, provoking applicable questions surrounding the impact and importance of community today. Go experience it for yourself on Nov. 4 and 5 and catch the visiting dance company from Ecuador!