KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Art will come to life across the Western Michigan University campus this weekend. WMU Dance presents "In-site/Outside," a display of site-specific, student-choreographed performances on Sunday, Oct. 10.
"The audience can expect to see dance in a way they may not have seen before," says Megan Slayter, professor and dance program director. "It's not as though we've taken dance that would exist on a stage and just done it outside; it is a dance that really lives in the space where it's choreographed—on stairs, behind bushes and in and out of pillars. So, it's really exciting, and it's beautiful to be outside and to walk around and see beautiful dancers doing beautiful things on campus."
The project, which involves first-year dance students performing works conceptualized and choreographed by senior students, takes the audience on a walking tour through Western's Main Campus. It includes five stops, such as the breezeway between the Richmond Center for Visual Arts and Dalton Center and the steps under the clock tower at Waldo Library.
"The basic project has been a study in site-specific choreography," says Carolyn Rabbers, a Western dance alumna who is teaching the senior-level advanced choreography class. "The students are integrating movement as well as the specifics of the location they have chosen—the architecture, general textures, feel and sound—in a narrative exploration for the audience to enjoy."
The collaborative project has been part of the dance program at Western for several years, giving new Broncos an opportunity to think outside the box and explore new dance techniques as well as build community with upper-level students. It also provides important resume-building experience for the student choreographers.
"When the seniors are on the cusp of graduating and as they transition into professional work experiences, this allows for them to have the opportunity to work in a leadership role with a cast so when they are in a position to create their own work, they have this experience already," Rabbers says. "They know how to organize an idea into a performance as well as nurture and collaborate with future artists."
In years past, the performances were in-studio pieces only performed in class. When the pandemic shut down studios, the dance department employed creative ways to allow students to continue their creative endeavors with health and safety in mind. In this case, it meant moving performances outside.
"The dance field has responded to this pandemic in incredibly creative ways, taking dance to places it didn't exist before," says Slayter. "Having a project that prepares our students for what they're really going to encounter in the profession is really wonderful."
It's an important lesson in innovation and adaptability that sets Western students up for success not only in the arts but in whatever career path they choose.
"Not all of our dance majors are going to go on to professional dance careers. They're going to be occupational therapists or teachers, arts administrators or engineers or doctors, and the skills they learn—from being challenged and having to be creative and collaborative to stepping into leadership roles and peer management—all of those skills are translatable to any profession they go into," Slayter says. "We see this project really as a base for any profession or any career goal they have."
"In-site/Outside" performance tours begin at 2 and 2:30 p.m. Oct. 10 in Miller Fountain Plaza. Tours are expected to last about an hour. Tickets, which are $5 for students and $10 for the general public, can be purchased online.
For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.