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Ohio State’s Dance Department Celebrates 50 Years

Dancers in “The Big 5-OH” Abbie Armbrecht and Coal Rietenbach perform Nomadic Drift, choreographed by Daniel Roberts, at Ohio State. Credit: Chris Summers

The Dance Department at Ohio State has been pulling out all the stops in its celebration of its 50th anniversary this year.

The department currently has a dance exhibit that is being hosted in Thompson Library, which features archive material from the dance department and highlights the influential people from the department over the years. The department also started celebratory performances on Nov. 8 in the Barnett Theatre and room 350 in Sullivant Hall, which are meant to highlight both the history and the future of the department.

“It totally illustrates and exemplifies everything that this department and this school is about: diversity and innovation,” said Abby Frank, a fourth-year student in dance and organizer for the celebration’s alumni brunch.

The performance in Barnett includes choreographies composed by four different professors, with each routine emphasizing a different component of dance: space, time, flow and weight, according to the dancers.

“It definitely shows the diversity of our department to its fullest degree, and its history,” said Paige St. John, a fourth-year student in dance and performer in the show.

The performance also puts the stage in the middle of the audience, surrounding the performers. This set-up is called “theater in the round,” which means that there is no aspect of the performance that the audience won’t be able to see.

“There is no bad seat in the house,” St. John said. “Anywhere you look, anywhere you sit, you get a full show.”

The performance also uses animation and projections on the stage floor to add to the experience. These projections include images taken from the department’s dance archives, and animations that were created, in part, with help from the motion capture lab.

“The projections being projected on us are from the work of those that came before us,” St. John said.

This performance is not, however, limited to the stage or even the dancers themselves. Outside the theater itself, in the Barnett Theatre’s rotunda there are photos, videos, and scores from the dance archives displayed in projections and on computers. Even in the theater, before the performance starts, there are more projections from the archives being displayed on the floor.

Audience members are encouraged to come forward and view them, or even take their shoes off and join the dancers warming up on stage.

“I’m hoping that’s something that audiences can take with them,” St. John said. “The people that come before use, and the way that is informing us. But also the way that this work, currently, will inform the next generations.”

This event, and all the different aspects that it entails, is one that is a source of great pride for the department.

“I feel really grateful and honored that I was here during this incredible event, this incredible anniversary,” Frank said.

Frank elaborated that the feeling of pride and excitement is not just limited to those dancing onstage or designing or working backstage, but the whole department.

“We are all so involved in this performance,” Frank said. “It has such a big part of our hearts in it because we are so proud and so in love with this dance community that we have within the department and outside as well.”

The Barnett Theatre performances are continuing today at 3 and 8 p.m., making this the second week of shows and one of the longer shows that the Dance Department has put on.

Tickets for “The Big 5-OH” are $15 for students and faculty and $25 for the general public.

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