Gina Hoch-Stall got to bring her vision to life with her thesis project, “PLAY,” at the Department of Dance spring concert last weekend. Credit: Courtesy of Laura DeAngelis

After years of studying dance as an undergraduate student at Temple University and running a dance studio called RealLivePeople in Philadelphia, Gina Hoch-Stall realized contemporary dance is not something the average person understands.

This realization was the inspiration behind Hoch-Stall’s thesis project that was showcased in the Department of Dance Spring Concert this past weekend. In her performance, “PLAY,” Hoch-Stall aimed to bridge a gap between dancers and the rest of the community by giving the audience a look into the process that ensues while dancers create their work.

Hoch-Stall, a third-year master’s student in dance, said she believes it’s her purpose to try to bring understanding to the nondancing community as a dancer.

“Part of my work as a choreographer is to find ways for unaffiliated audience members to see the kind of work that I do, and feel like they understand what’s going on rather than thinking, ‘Wow, they are really good dancers, but I don’t understand what’s going on,’ which is often a response to contemporary dance,” Hoch-Stall said.

To accomplish this, Hoch-Stall said she paid a lot of attention to the process of choreographing and creating her performance so she could showcase it through her performance.

This concept was communicated by including elements of theater, such as audience interaction, dialogue and improvisation, Hoch-Stall said.

Hoch-Stall said she started working on her 20-minute performance in August, but believes the piece finally came together in the weeks leading up to the show.

Putting the dance together required time to allow the dancers to become familiar with one another, Emily Craver, one of Hoch-Stall’s dancers, said.

“Since there’s a lot of improvisation throughout the piece, we had to take a lot of time to get comfortable with one another to the point where we’re able to trust each other, and that lets us become more vulnerable on stage,” Craver, a first-year master’s student in dance, said.

Because improvisation was a key element of the performance, even the dancers weren’t aware of exactly what would happen on stage. Craver said she thought this element of the unknown was exciting and allowed the dancers to play off the feedback they received from each other, the music and the audience.

While there were many takeaways from her performance, Hoch-Stall said she hopes the piece painted a bigger picture for the audience.

“What’s unfolding on stage is maybe not so separate or different from the audience’s existence as people in the world,” Hoch-Stall said. “Yes, we are dancers, and we have this particular way of being, but we’re also people.”