Dance residency inspires

Megan Lay, Staff writer

Catherine Meredith was invited by the Mercyhurst Dance department to set her choreographic work “Aftermath” on a cast of nine dancers.
It is inspired by the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.
“The piece serves as a call to arms for women to assert themselves in a way that they can feel heard,” Meredith said.
Meredith began her dance training under the direction of Kenneth Lipitz and Shelley Ziebel at the New England Dance Conservatory.
She went on to study on scholarship at SUNY Purchase, Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, Richmond Ballet and the London Contemporary Dance School.
Meredith danced with Alvin Ailey on contract for two seasons starting at age 19.
“‘Aftermath’ was born out of the frustration from seeing women still being oppressed in 2018.
“I am hoping to allow space for stories to be told, believed, and supported while also asking, ‘Why are we being believed now?’” Meredith said.
Meredith’s work is original choreography that gathers contributions from the dancers.
Each time she has reset the piece it has changed to reflect the feelings and movements of the current cast.
To begin the residency, the cast sat down and wrote about their experiences when they felt marginalized or invisible in society.
Meredith then asked the dancers how they would express these experiences in movement.
“It is always interesting each time I set this piece, the words and movements overlap.
“These movements truly are a shared experience.
“It also shows that dance is a universal language,” Meredith said.
“The stage and the studio are a space for people to share their stories and feel empowered in the collective of shared experiences.”
Meredith then described her choreographic process and how important it is for the dancers she is working with to remain open and willing to go on the journey with her.
The most challenging part for her is finding the dynamic and cohesion between dancers on the first day of a residency or when restaging a piece.
“It is always hard to restage something and not get caught in the trap of referencing how the previous cast danced it before.
“It is challenging to allow the new dancers to make it their own, and allow someone else’s interpretation to hold just as true,” Meredith said.
Finally, Meredith observed that the dance world is in good hands with the next generation of dancers being produced at Mercyhurst.
“The eagerness and work ethic of the Mercyhurst dancers has been amazing.
“I am impressed that the dancers could learn the whole work in three days.
“They are all quick studies as it is a huge undertaking to learn the choreography, embody the movement and then be able to perform the work in such a short period of time.
“The dancers all did an amazing job with the task at hand,” Meredith said.
Meredith’s piece “Aftermath” will be presented in the Mercyhurst Dance Department’s Symphony In Motion, Nov. 9-11.