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‘Strong artists making strong statements’: Senior dance students bring visions to life

A dancer in white gestures in front of mirrors

ASU student Maili Monenerkit poses for photos as part of the marketing process senior dance students learn for their capstone projects to be presented in this year's "Transitions" concert series. Photo by Ellie Carty

January 26, 2024

Featuring 18 student choreographers over two weekends, this year’s “Transitions” concert series showcases a wide range of dance styles from senior dance students in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre at Arizona State University. 

“This is the largest cohort of senior choreographers that I have worked with since taking this role as artistic director of the senior "Transitions" projects,” said Carley Conder, clinical assistant professor of dance at ASU. “What is unique about the concert this year is the strength and breadth of the work presented. The artists are firmly themselves and are fearless in presenting their own stories. They are strong artists making strong statements.”

Titled “Wont I Panic” by the students, the multi-genre, two-part concert reflects on collective consciousness and how people cope with what it means to exist. The name of the show is a play on the palindrome “Won’t I panic in a pit now?” It references that two different groups are presenting and represents the journey of audiences descending into the artists’ world and then being led back by the artists to reality.

“Is our mind an endless void or a playground for fearless expression?” asked Shayla Eshelman, one of the student choreographers. “‘Wont I Panic’ is an exploration of human experiences and the alternate realities we live within.”

Eshelman’s piece, “Through These Brown Eyes,” uses hip-hop, salsa and contemporary modern dance to represent both the joy and struggle of Blackness from her perspective. 

2024 "Transitions" showcase

"Transitions I"

7:30 p.m. Feb. 2–3

2 p.m. Feb. 4

"Transitions II"

7:30 p.m. Feb. 9–10

2 p.m. Feb. 11

The concerts represent months of work. In early fall, the senior students held auditions to select dancers to perform in their pieces. They not only choreograph the work, but also collaborate with ASU staff and faculty to design the lighting, sound and costuming for their pieces. They also worked together as a cohort to theme and market the show. The experience helps prepare them for professional careers as dance choreographers and performers.

“Not only did I learn new strategies on how to approach choreography, but I also learned how to approach different production elements that I wasn’t exposed to before,” said senior Maddie Lasco. “I’m taking all this new knowledge with me into my life after college.”

Senior Chloe DeMarce said this series is special not only because it’s the culmination of the students’ final year in the program but also because it reflects their collective experiences.

“It touches on themes that not only affected us individually but are relevant to everything that’s going on in our world today and helps bring some of those ideas into the light,” DeMarce said. “Our class was the one that came in during the pandemic. Our freshman year, we were all in masks. As a whole, we’ve been through a lot together and stuck through some tough times with one another.”

“This is a fantastic group of students who have been extremely driven as makers since their very first semester at ASU,” said Mary Fitzgerald, ASU professor and artistic director of dance. “Their movement practices, artistic voices and overall vision of dance is rich and diverse. They are a group of fearless powerhouses who will be the future innovators in the field. I look forward to seeing how their careers take shape as they transition into the professional world.”

The show is divided into two weekends to allow for a more immersive and in-depth exploration of the creativity, lighting, movement and structure of these powerful dance works.

“Audiences should come see these shows — both weekends! — to see the future of dance,” Conder said. “These students truly represent the talent and innovative approaches to what dance is going to look like in the near future. There is an enthusiasm, raw energy, joyfulness and an unmitigated approach to creativity that is truly inspiring.”

Audiences can experience all 18 pieces by attending a show during both weekends. Performances will be held in the Margaret Gisolo Dance Theatre on the ASU Tempe campus. Tickets must be purchased online through the Herberger Institute Box Office.

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