2020 Dance Festival: Taking the arts outdoors

Nicole Yeager, Assistant News Editor

Every year, the University’s department of theatre and dance hosts an annual Dance Festival to showcase student talent. This past Saturday, Oct. 3, the tradition continued, but with a twist: it was held entirely outdoors around campus. Due to the various regulations and protocols regarding COVID-19, faculty and students in charge of organizing this event, which has been held at Harvey M. Powers Theatre in Coleman Hall in past years, were forced to get creative and rethink how it would best be structured for both performers and the audience. 

Isabelle Levesque-Du Bose ’23 and Aisling Sullivan ’23, both dance minors, were members of the Publicity Crew for the event’s Production Staff — they could be recognized by the t-shirts they had designed for the event. The two shared that the decision to move the event outdoors also made it more accessible for the rest of the campus community and granted the performers, as well as the department itself, more exposure. 

“It was truly a great way for the dancers to perform and an even greater opportunity to spread art around the campus,” Sullivan said.  

“We may be in a pandemic, but arts can still happen in unique ways,” Levesque-Du Bose said. 

Levesque-Du Bose was also involved with designing and creating the digital program for the Outdoor Dance Festival. This program outlined the dance schedule with times and locations, showed a map of the locations and listed detailed descriptions of each number. The program also listed the names of those involved with organizing the event, provided information about the department’s upcoming events and included a memo reminding audience members to maintain socially distanced and wear masks. The program was sent out to all theatre and dance faculty and staff, as well as students, to share with family, friends, other students and peers. Additionally, it was included in all their publicity efforts, including the University message center, and linked to a QR code that was available at each location. 

The dance performances were scattered around campus, making use of both the landscape and the nice weather. Each performance was also accompanied by either live instrumental music from students or pre-recorded songs that played from speakers. The audience, which was made up of students, faculty, staff and local community members, moved along with the performers to each location. In the interest of accessibility, the entire festival was also being professionally recorded and live-streamed over Zoom by two students. 

Professor of Dance Er-Dong Hu expressed his excitement during the event: “It has been difficult for dancers to express themselves this semester. This outdoor festival gave dancers from all different majors come together to celebrate art through many different styles of dance. I cannot believe how amazing the turnout is, everyone is having a great time,” Hu said. 

The festival began uphill outside of Malesardi Quad, Rooke Chapel, the Weis Center, McDonnel Hall, the Amphitheatre and the Bucknell Farm. There were six performances in this first section of the event; the opening number, choreographed by Associate Professor of Dance Kelly Knox, was titled “Let There Be Dance & Music,” and was performed by various members of the program and accompanied by the Bucknell Symphonic Band. The rest of this first section consisted of smaller numbers, with one featuring the well-known Bisonettes Dance Team. 

After a brief intermission, the event picked back up at the middle of campus, which included the Tunnel, KLARC Lawn and Sojka Lawn; this section comprised of three performances, with the last one, titled “Partition,” featuring the Bison Girls Dance Team, a crowd favorite. 

“I am so happy that we got the opportunity to dance this semester, and it was really fun to take the show outdoors. It was also so great seeing everyone who came and supported the arts,” Alana Bortman ’22 said.

The festival concluded downhill, making creative use of the Gateway Stairs and the Grove; this last section featured numbers choreographed by Hu, Associate Professor of Dance Dustyn Martincich and student McKayla Charney ’21.   

“This year I am a student director for the dance program and, this semester specifically, I was directing the Outdoor Dance Festival with Professor Er Dong Hu, as well as choreographing a piece to be performed in it. The entire process took a lot of time and effort, but it was incredibly rewarding. I would do it a hundred times over,” Charney said. 

“Choreographing a piece for this festival was different than anything I had done before. I have never created a dance to be performed outside, and on top of that, there was a time crunch. We ended up only having six or seven rehearsals, so we really had to get moving immediately,” Charney said. “In the end, I was very proud of my dancers and the final product we produced. Many people were also involved behind the scenes, so we could not have done it without all of the dancers and faculty that helped. Seeing the whole festival come together so seamlessly and seeing people outside and able to enjoy dance together in a way that we have never done before at Bucknell was amazing.” 

“Being able to still participate and experience the art of dance this semester has been a privilege. The Outdoor Dance Festival has been the first of its kind at Bucknell and, as we continue to navigate through this new environment, it is important that we all honor how far we have come and how far we can go,” dancer John Peña ’23 said.

Looking forward, the department of theatre and dance hopes to host more of their events in alternative and creative ways. Jenna Beucler ’23, a member of the Community Engagement Team, shared that they are working on video-taped basic dance classes for children in the local Lewisburg community, movement classes for nearby nursing homes and dance classes for other students at the University. In lieu of the annual showcase and concert, they are planning a recorded performance to be streamed later in the semester. 

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