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UofM Students “Emerge” Through a Showcase of Dance

The U of M Department of Theatre and Dance hosted its annual spring showcase of expressive works by student choreographers.

Rachael Arnwine, the dance adjunct professor at UofM, said, “The dance department is holding ‘Emerge 360’ to give our undergraduate dance students an opportunity and platform to create choreography and have it performed in a professional setting.”

“This year’s production of Emerge 360 will be in the round, meaning the audience is seated around the dancers rather than viewing them from only one side,” said student choreographer Elyzah Gasmen. “It explores a thematic concept of the idea of 360 degrees, considering what it means to encompass and surround. The idea of being panoramic suggests a cycle to all things that everything and everyone is connected.”

Emerge 360 consists of eight contemporary dance works that explore different thematic concepts. Student choreographers collaborated not only with dancers, but also with lighting techs, costume designers, sound techs and set designers to fully manifest their vision.

Gasmen struggled with choreography at the beginning stage of her creative process. Her piece, “Alaála,” translated to memories, comes from the Filipino language, Tagalog. She decided to do a contemporary take on a Filipino folk dance called “Sayaw Sa Llaw.”

Gasmen said that “Alaála,” or memories, aligns with the concept of 360 degrees because it explores the beauty of connection.

“Themes of unity, friendship and nostalgia are most prevalent, and I feel as though there’s a message within the piece that says you are never alone,” Gasmen said. “There will always be people around to support and uplift you, no matter the circumstances.”

Arnwine said that Emerge 360 was an outlet that allowed students to express themselves by creating new pieces and presenting them to people.

“Students who are interested in choreographing typically submit a proposal explaining what ideas they might have for the piece they want to create,” said Gasmen. “I presented my proposal in December to a few of the dance faculty and my peers, and it was accepted for the dance concert.”

Gasmen said that performing, choreographing and working with her peers for Emerge was the most special and rewarding experience of everything she’s done at the University of Memphis.

“These student-led dance concerts have a certain charm to them, and I feel like it’s because you can tell how much love, passion and dedication go into these works,” said Gasmen. “It’s always an incredible honor to be a part of something like this.”

Because Emerge 360 is entirely student-led, the College of Communication and Fine Arts is exemplified through the students participating in this showcase.

“Through watching dance, audiences experience not only the storytelling of movement, but also the lighting, costuming and music that makes each piece,” said Gasmen “Regardless of background, experience or education, there will always be a work that resonates with an audience member in a unique way.”

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