Professor stands in an empty auditorium

The time the show couldn't go on

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A professor makes notes while watching dance rehersal
Carrie Brueck Morris, associate professor of dance, takes notes while observing a rehearsal for the spring dance concert. (Valerie Wojciechowski)

For this year’s spring dance concert, Carrie Brueck Morris, associate professor of dance, had choreographed a routine with a twist.

The originally intended twist was to have the dance students take photos while performing on the Haas Center for Performing Arts stage and have those images immediately projected onto a screen. It was a way to show the vantage point of the performers and present an artistic commentary on how everyone is being watched.

Then the twist that Morris could not have fathomed: There would be no projected vantage point because there would be no show.

For the performing arts, one of the core principles is that the show must go on, no matter the obstacle. COVID-19 proved to be the rare insurmountable hurdle.

But the show wasn’t the only loss. Freshman Company and Dance Company courses are designed for dance students to fully understand the preparation process for producing a show. They experience auditions for numbers produced both by faculty members and guest artists. They rehearse. They see elements such as costume creation and lighting design.

Every dancer is in at least one performance, Morris said. At an audition for her piece on incorporating technology, Morris moved from demonstrating moves to offering advice on how to limit pain when tumbling to the floor to taking a seat atop a short stack of bleachers to assess the dancers and decide who would be in the piece.

“As a dancer, and a performer, we want them to get comfortable with the audition process — the joy of making it in and the inevitable disappointment of not,” Morris said. “It’s part of our world. Students need to learn to manage that disappointment and use it as a learning opportunity.”

Students and faculty at dance rehearsal
Left: Matthew Gabel, center, works on a lift with Carly Sisoy, right, while dancer Meghan Dolata is pictured at left. The three were auditioning for one of the dances for the spring dance concert. (Kendra Stanley-Mills) / Right: Guest choreographer Justin Koertgen watches the dance class, including Auburn Kilian, rehearse one of the pieces he choreographed for the spring dance concert. (Kendra Stanley-Mills)
Students at dance rehearsal using cell phones
Inset: Dancers and guest choreographer Justin Koertgen, top right, gather around student Emily McKenzie and her cell phone, bottom center, as they watch Emily’s younger brother perform a dance performance during a live feed. (Kendra Stanley-Mills) / Main image: Pictured from top to bottom, Emily McKenzie, Emma Strasberger and Meghan Dolata rehearse a modern dance piece for the spring dance concert. (Valerie Wojciechowski)
Black and white image of a student lifting another student in the air during dance rehearsal
Wolfgang Goluska lifts O’Malley Ferguson during a rehearsal for the spring dance concert. (Kendra Stanley-Mills)

At the time classes were moved to remote learning and the performance canceled, auditions were wrapping up and work had started on costumes and lighting considerations were underway, Morris said. 

The final project shifted to a paper.

“It’s disappointing. The rehearsal is hopefully fun, but really what we’re driving toward is the performance. The dances aren’t complete until you do that part of it,” Morris said.

Morris said she felt badly for the seniors who wouldn’t participate in a culminating performance. Seniors have their own concert but also are honored during the spring dance concert for their time at Grand Valley.

Madeline DuHadway, who graduated with a double major in dance and psychology, lamented the chance to relish a last performance with her tight-knit Grand Valley dance community. She said she learned quick lessons about not taking cherished experiences for granted.

“Once you get to the last semester, it’s not about learning the ropes as much — you’ve kind of made it. You just want to really enjoy the semester and dance with your friends,” DuHadway said. “I still feel very strange about it that we didn’t get to have our last goodbye.”

Student handling fabric for a costume
Heather Miedema works on costumes for the spring dance concert. (Amanda Pitts)
Two students embrace
Auburn Kilian, left, hugs a fellow dancer prior to their auditions for the spring dance concert. (Kendra Stanley-Mills)