Back for the 48th time since its debut, Dance 48 returned to campus in person for the first time in two years. The dancers have been preparing for months as faculty and guest choreographers turned their ideas into productions for this incredible show. Taking place on March 4-5 as well as March 10-12, the dancers took the stage to deliver unforgettable performances in front of a live audience for the first time in a while.
Dance 48 is much more than just a performance put on for the members of the Holland and Hope College communities to come and watch. It is the yearly faculty concert where they are given the opportunity to choreograph their own piece and have dancers audition to be in these pieces. Olivia Ravell (‘22) (she/her) stated, “the whole preface behind it is to showcase all the members of the dance department as well as all of our faculty members.” Faculty in the dance department as well as guest choreographers come in to choreograph whichever style they choose. In the lineup, we saw a ballet-focused number “Pieces of HER” choreographed by Julie Powell, contemporary pieces such as “Femina” choreographed by Kara Madden Brems and the dancers, and even a tap number “Three Takes on Monk” choreographed by Heather Cornell. The range of styles and the tones of the pieces provided a performance that kept you on your toes not knowing what to expect next.
While the performances themselves display an array of talent, creativity and art on stage, the road to opening night began at the start of the school year back in the Fall of 2021. Anyone was welcome to audition, not just dance majors and minors, and students were able to audition for as many pieces as they wanted. There’s no guarantee that you’ll make it into a specific piece, so Fara Ling (’23) advises “it’s in your best interest to audition for as many choreographers as possible.” Auditions can be stressful environments, especially for freshmen just entering the department or dancers that aren’t a part of the department, but Ling assures “Hope Dance Department auditions are really friendly and low-pressure.”
Zooming in to a particular piece, Ling participated in “Insomnis,” a dance choreographed by Lindsey Hanson. This piece was mesmerizing to watch as an audience member as it was a constant build until the climax. Ling describes the piece, saying, “Over 12 or so minutes, ‘Insomnis’ builds to a crescendo of frenetic energy. When I really connect to the dance and immerse myself in it, it takes me from one place to a completely different one.” The piece surely transports you into another universe even from the audience’s point of view, as strobe lights make fast and powerful movements at the end of the piece appearing like a stop motion video. The powerful movements are not the only powerful thing about this cast of dancers though. Ling describes an impactful part of this dance, saying, “one thing I love about ‘Insomnis’ cast is that we all have different looking bodies, hair types, dance backgrounds, and life experiences, and the convergence of all that onstage, in unity, is a powerful thing […] The cast of ‘Insomnis’ is in pre-med, communications, psychology, kinesiology and education; we serve on the executive boards of student organizations; we’re on the Dean’s List; and yes, on top of that all, we’re dancers.” This group of dancers is as dynamic and powerful as the piece they danced, making the impact that much stronger.
Unity is not simply found on stage, but offstage as well. It takes the work of many working parts to create the final product that is Dance 48. From the choreographers, dancers and crew to the musicians, there wasn’t a single person who didn’t give their all for this production. Ravell described the community saying, “everyone in all the cast we warm up together, and the energy is really high. This is what it’s supposed to feel like, you’re supposed to feel that community and that connection with your castmates and other members of the department.” Not even just through the cast warm-ups, but some choreographers collaborated with students to create their dances. There really is a community feel and the audience can feel the unity when it manifests itself on stage.
From the rise of the curtain at 7:30 p.m. to the final bow at the end of the show, the dancers, choreographers, musicians and crew made the 48th year of Dance 48 an unforgettable experience for the Hope and Holland communities. This production opens the door for the community to get a glimpse into the world of the dancers on Hope’s campus. Ravell emphasizes this point and comments that Dance 48 is important because of the visibility it brings to the arts. She states, “Having such an awesome source of the arts on campus and free for students […] and so close by is really a great experience for people to get an introduction to something they wouldn’t necessarily have outside of Hope.” Hopefully, you got a chance to see the hard work of the Dance Department in Dance 48, and if not be sure to check back next year.