Spring Dance Performance to feature student-selected music and pieces of student choreography

Spring Dance Performance to feature student-selected music and pieces of student choreography


Join us for the Spring Dance Performance, Dancer's Choice, in the Knight Fine Arts Center theater.

Friday | May 17 | 8 p.m.

Saturday | May 18 | 8 p.m.

Tickets are complimentary for the WRA community.Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for seniors/students and will be available for sale at the door.


Dancer's Choice, this year's Spring Dance Performance, is coming to the KFAC stage next week, opening on Friday, May 17.

"Katie [Velbeck] and I wanted to give the dancers a little bit more ownership of this performance," said Emily Barth, Associate Dean of Student Life and fellow Fine & Performing Arts faculty member with Velbeck. "The title is Dancer's Choice because the students have chosen all the music for the show."

Their only parameters were to select music post 2016; each class presented song choices befitting ballet, modern jazz and hip hop, and each group cast their votes for their favorites.

This has resulted in an exciting and eclectic set list, including both popular hits and unexpected selections. Indeed, it's been an opportunity for each group to showcase their own personalities as a dance class. Music powerhouses like Cardi B, Khalid, and Drake make an appearance, as do Dean Lewis' song "Waves" and Haley Reinhart's take on the classic, "Can't Help Falling in Love."

"One of the honors classes chose an acoustic version of "FRIENDS" [Marshmello & Anne-Marie], which is quite sassy!" said Barth. "Definitely not your typical ballet -- definitely more of a contemporary feel to it. And that, for me as a choreographer, was very, very fun."

Unlike the Fall Dance Performance, which delved into famous works of art expressed in movement, this performance has a less concrete theme and has allowed the students to shine, particularly the student-choreographers. This year, VaLanDria (Dria) Smith-Lash '19, Tien (Tano) Nguyen '19, Aubrey Lanham '20, Ana Villada '20, Katie Chen '20, Flora Jiang '19, Kaitlyn Kuchar '22 and Kennedy Schmid '22 will present their own pieces.

In order to qualify for inclusion in the show, these student-choreographers auditioned and presented multiple showings to both Velbeck and Barth, tracking their progress and ensuring they meet the set requirements. Expectations are high, and Barth happily reported how impressed she is by their pieces.

"We have a group of four girls who are performing "Sorry Not Sorry" [Demi Lovato], which has that feeling of young female empowerment. It's flirtatious and really fun. And then you have Dria, who's a senior this year, and she chose the song "The Fire" [Bishop Briggs]. In the piece, she's wearing this bright red unitard, and the effect is fantastic. She's such a force on the stage, and to see her develop over the years and create this solo is just really something special."

Velbeck is now spending her time with her new baby daughter, who was born in late April, but she will rejoin the Fine & Performing Arts Department next year as a full-time faculty member -- much to Barth and the students' delight.

"We've missed her the past couple of weeks, but we're all so excited for her," said Barth. "We've such a fantastic working relationship, and she's great with the kids. It's a perfect fit."

As Associate Dean of Student Life, Barth's time is divided between teaching and, well, dean-ing, but she's proud of both of roles and the way they intersect and complement one another.

"I would say I'm a better Dean because of my job as a teacher," she said. "It helps me really get to know the kids as a faculty member, especially in dance. When you teach an art, you instantly get to know the kids in a completely different way than anyone else. I love that they can come into a space where they feel so free and they feel safe. They really open themselves up, and it's wonderful to be a part of that."