At around 6:30 p.m. Monday, the dancers began their warm up for one of the last rehearsals for Dance 2017, which opens today at 8 p.m. and runs through Tuesday.
For most people, “warm up” means light stretching, preparation before intense activity. But in the cavernous darkness of McGinnis Theatre on East Carolina University’s campus, the dancers warm up in a smooth, carefully measured group, totally in sync. You want to call it beautiful, but that word seems to fall short. It has none of the physicality of this warmup. None of the raw power. On this stage, there is only the most functional kind of beauty: the beauty of a body working at full capacity.
Dance 2017 is a dance concert meant to show the diversity of dance. It features work of guest artists and the faculty and the styles range from tap to ballet to contemporary to jazz.
“It was an interesting process,” Drew Yowell, a dance performance senior, said. “Each choreographer had their individual rehearsals and came up with their own materials and we all came together...and reviewed everyone’s material and decided on what chunks would go great all together. And then added some more paper to it.”
Paper? That doesn’t quite make sense until Teal Darkenwald, one of the choreographers, starts carefully crafting a paper headdress as a dancer sits carefully as a model. The white paper billows across her head, curled around her neck like a swan, and the dancer sits with utter serenity.
Beneath the stage, there is an electric hum as the dancers prepare, smearing silver eyeshadow across their eyelids delicately, tightening silken corsets.
“We’re both in Tommi (Galask’s) homage... the Prince tribute,” Kennedy Hill, a dance education junior, said. “I’m super excited about that one. The lights, it’s gonna be like one big concert.”
Tommi Galaska is one of the dance professors — a small wiry woman who inspires complete attention and respect when she speaks. Next to Hill is Tiffany Cherry, a dance performance freshman, sitting cross legged, delicately doing her makeup in the bright mirror.
“Coming in and just working with Tommi,” Cherry said. “It was really fun to just get to know her more and watching her work and thinking it’s gonna be a lot but then it comes out to be something dope.”
In another room, Kristalyn Gill applies her dark lipstick carefully. She wrings her hands, not nervously, but more an unconscious release of built-up energy.
“I’m in two pieces. One is by Danielle Sheather and it’s called ‘Mother Courage,’” Gill said. “It’s about the power of women and about challenging other women and empowering them and appreciating their own identities and taking a stand where they feel like they might be undercut.”
At around 7:45 tonight, the dancers will be staring at themselves in the mirror, clearing their minds and sharpening their focus, remembering everything their warm ups have taught them.