Montclair State Student Choreographers And Dancers Sprinkle Their Unique Touch In ‘Dance Makers’

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Published February 23, 2022
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The Montclarion
Oksana Horban and Serena Brown intertwine as they grace the stage during their performance of "Conjoined." Photo courtesy of Robert M. Cooper

Why go to Broadway to see professional dance numbers when you can visit Alexander Kasser Theater here at Montclair State University?

On Feb. 18, Montclair State’s Department of Theatre and Dance kicked off the spring semester with “Dance Makers.”

“Dance Makers” is a curated dance concert in which Montclair State student choreographers and dancers bring their unique creativity to the stage through 10 performances.

Maxine Steinman, the artistic director of “Dance Makers” and an associate professor in the department, noted the difference in each part of the production.

“Each piece varies in content, texture and movement unique to each choreographer,” Steinman said. “In planning the performance, I designed the order of the program in a way that would highlight each piece in reference to content, movement, costumes, design, amount of dancers and music.”

As the lights dimmed and the curtains opened, we were greeted with “ERIF,” choreographed by Jordan Moore, a junior dance major.

“ERIF” is “fire” spelled backward, which serves as the abstract concept of Moore’s piece. It illustrates the transition of igniting a flame to blowing it out.

Filled with natural sounds of lighting matches, electric blues and hints of Spanish guitar, the dancers glowed as they effortlessly brought a powerful yet sassy and spicy performance to the stage with impeccable choreography and technique.

It was an incredible way to start the show. And just when you think it can’t get any better, it does.

Next up was the stunning and soul-stirring duet, “Conjoined,” choreographed by Oksana Horban, a senior dance major, featuring Serena Brown, who is also a senior dance major.

Brown says “Conjoined” is about two beings who find comfort in their togetherness.

“As they move through the piece and find more space between themselves, they begin to panic and then join back together in the quiet comfort of their connection,” Brown said.

Right off the bat, you get this ethereal sensation as Brown and Horban perform. Brown best describes it as “otherworldly.”

As they graced the stage in sync with beautiful lines, one can’t help but notice that Brown and Horban are complete visual opposites in terms of movement.

“We are different in the way we look and move, which allows for an interesting blend of movements that lead to an innovative and unique style of dance,” Horban said.

“Conjoined” caught the eye of Jenny Juhasz, a senior psychology and medical humanities major.

“It was very emotional [and] expressive,” Juhasz said. “You can tell there was a lot of trust between the partners.”

Jenny Juhasz, a senior psychology medical humanities major, describes "Dance Makers" as very expressive. Sekhena Sembenu | The Montclarion

Jenny Juhasz describes “Dance Makers” as very expressive.
Sekhena Sembenu | The Montclarion

Apart from their unforgettable performance, the use of lighting was flawless. It was intense and dazzling. Not to mention, the popular effect of spotlighting accentuated both performers and essentially brought the piece together.

Transitioning halfway through the program was “SPECTRUM,” choreographed by Mark Lovell, a junior dance major.

Lovell was playing around with different ideas for his piece when the color spectrum came across his mind.

“Just like how there’s an emotional spectrum from sadness to happiness, there’s also a color spectrum,” Lovell said. “There’s so many things you can play with, like lights and angles.”

Mark Lovell, a junior BFA dance major, choreographed "SPECTRUM." Sekhena Sembenu | The Montclarion

Mark Lovell choreographed “SPECTRUM.”
Sekhena Sembenu | The Montclarion

Lovell said his goal was to go on a journey with himself and his dancers to explore who they are as a whole when they present themselves to society and as the people they are behind closed doors.

From solos and performing in unison to vibrant costumes and a variety of different colored lighting, the idea of a spectrum was quite evident in the performance.

Lovell even blessed us with a signature move: a motif where the hands reach toward the face to pull the mask off.

”It describes us as dancers pulling the veil off and opening our eyes to what’s out there and things that came to play,” Lovell said.

For Maya McKinney, a sophomore dance major, this piece was like a personal outlet.

“For myself, I was able to express independence, which is something that I’m learning as a sophomore in college, especially being away from home,” McKinney said. “I felt very free.”

Maya McKinney, a sophomore BFA dance major, describes "SPECTRUM" as a personal outlet. Sekhena Sembenu | The Montclarion

Maya McKinney describes “SPECTRUM” as a personal outlet.
Sekhena Sembenu | The Montclarion

Considering the times and circumstances the world resides in, McKinney couldn’t help but feel immense gratitude.

“It’s a blessing,” McKinney said. “I am someone who thrives off of performing [and] the adrenaline [that comes with] making people feel something. It’s inspiring.”

Beyond the group performances, there was one solo that without a doubt captivated the audience. “Shades of Blue,” choreographed and performed by Brown with an original piece of music written by senior musical theatre major Alex Birchwale. It was the most elegant and exemplary solo performance.

Serena Brown, a senior BFA dance major, choreographed and performed a piece called "Shades of Blue." Photo courtesy of Robert M. Cooper

Serena Brown choreographed and performed a piece called “Shades of Blue.”
Photo courtesy of Robert M. Cooper

“’Shades of Blue’ explores how I interpret four different shades of blue, the feelings I attach to them and how I can convey those feelings and ideas through movement,” Brown said.

Watching this solo, you can’t help but feel this sense of calm, almost like a breath of fresh air. The way Brown floated across the stage so gracefully with her flowy, sheer dress brushing the floor is an unforgettable image.

Overall, “Dance Makers” was a success.

Camyron Chauffe, a senior theatre major, doesn’t go to dance concerts often but absolutely loved this show.

“Any piece of entertainment is worth watching, especially dance, but I feel like it is so underrated,” Chauffe said. “Dance is something that people can relate to more than they realize.”

Camyron Chauffe, a senior theatre BFA major with a focus in production, describes "Dance Makers" as moving and powerful. Sekhena Sembenu | The Montclarion

Camyron Chauffe describes “Dance Makers” as moving and powerful.
Sekhena Sembenu | The Montclarion

With the show being a success, we can’t forget to recognize all the hard work that occurred backstage.

“It takes a village to put on a beautiful production such as this, so the credit needs to also be given to the production and tech crew, which includes the lighting, sound, wardrobe, stage manager and backstage crew,” Steinman said.

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