In ‘Emerge,’ TU and CCBC dancers unite on one stage

By Rebecca Kirkman on Monday, November 18, 2019

An unprecedented collaboration brings together work from four choreographers

Runqiao Du rehearses with TU Dance Company
Artistic Director Runqiao Du rehearses with the TU Dance Company. They will premiere “Emerge” on Wednesday, Nov. 20.

Each term in the TU Dance Company, students work with guest choreographers and prepare a concert complete with lighting and costume design.

It’s part of Dance Company Artistic Director Runqiao Du’s efforts to create a company curriculum that will prepare students for life after graduation.

“This is like a simulator, if you will,” says Du from a studio in the Center for the Arts where the company is rehearsing for its fall concert, “Emerge.” “We create an industry standard, as much as we can, of the concept of the company. So when students graduate and go into the industry, they will not be unfamiliar with the practice.”

But this fall, Du and his colleagues have come together to create something unprecedented: a 45-minute piece combining works from four choreographers at two institutions.

For “Emerge,” Du partnered with TU Assistant Professor Alison Seidenstricker and Professor Vincent Thomas as well as Community College of Baltimore County Associate Professor Melinda Blomquist to piece together a half-evening length piece that will incorporate dancers from both institutions.

A professor exchange allowed Du to work with CCBC students as a guest artist, while Blomquist came to campus to teach a section of choreography to TU’s Dance Company. “With this sort of collaboration, the dancers have the opportunity to work with new people in a short amount of time,” Du says. “In the real world, you don’t have a whole semester to [learn] something. We tried to mimic [that], to create a live industry speed for those dancers to absorb, to learn, and to perfect.”

For students, “Emerge” has provided an opportunity to learn in new ways.

“It's something I personally haven't really done yet,” says TU Dance Company member Kaelen Gouveia ’21. “But it's also very exciting because you get to see many different backgrounds and choreographic styles come together. And it's really interesting to see how your stylistic voice can fit or goes together with the new choreographer. It's a very eye-opening experience.”

Students from the CCBC and TU dance companies as well as Thomas’ Core Movement for Men class performed selections from “Emerge” at CCBC last weekend. The full-length piece will debut at the Stephens Hall Theatre on Wednesday, Nov. 20.

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“Artistically, the opportunity to work with four different choreographers and have four different artistic challenges all within the same work is a really unique experience,” Blomquist says. “And then also this opportunity to be in a full-length work, because most academic work is built around a 9- to 15-minute piece.”

In addition to preparing students for professional life, Du hopes to send a message with “Emerge,” which was inspired by a sunset he witnessed while teaching a summer dance intensive in South Africa and explores the idea of light emerging from darkness.

“With so many people from different schools, different backgrounds, [together] on stage, that is powerful,” he says. “It’s a sense of unity, sense of community, sense of togetherness, that to me is valuable as well.”

Senior dance major Kayla Clancy ’20 says “Emerge” has given her the opportunity to push herself physically and emotionally with a longer piece.

“I hope that [the audience is] inspired by our hard work, but also the message and the emotion that we bring, sharing ourselves and our stories on a stage and together,” Clancy says. “And I hope they’re surprised by this different thing that we’re bringing this semester that we’ve never done before.”