Senior dance majors prepare for Raw Edges performance


Sarah Beck, Staff writer

Those who have not heard about the Dance department’s major Spring performance, settle in.

Raw Edges is an annual event completely created by senior dance students with the guidance of faculty and advisors. This is the 24th showcase of this studentled production and is a performance one surely should not miss!

The show consists of 810 minute pieces choreographed and created by the senior dance majors. These pieces are part of these students’ senior capstone projects, a very in-depth project that spans for over a year.

Essentially, each of the dance majors selects a topic or an area of interest to focus on. They submit three project proposals during their spring semester junior year in preparation for the fall semester.

Once they begin their senior year, the research also begins. Each senior researches their individual topics, decides on a piece of music and requests the rights to the chosen song, plays with different desired movements, as well as hosts auditions to cast dancers for their choreography.

Once all of these tasks have been completed, the dancers begin their rehearsals in the spring semester in preparation for the performance.

There is a lot to the process, but Jenna Fritts, a senior Dance major with a minor in Business Administration, said, “the department does a terrific job of giving us experience and a sense of the ownership and responsibility that will come after graduation in the professional dance world while still being there to guide us as we are still students for a few more months.”

Fun fact about Fritts, she is oddly good at mini golf and desperately wants to become diver certified and yoga certified.

Fritts stated that her dance titled “Crimson”, “…is about females in espionage who have had an immense impact on the world because they weren’t viewed as capable of being spies simply for being women and how they didn’t let society determine and confine what they were capable of.”

Fritts said that one of her favorite books as a child was a historical biography by Aline Griffith which describes Griffiths time spent infiltrating the Spanish high society as a spy in Madrid during WWII. This was the basis of Fritts’s piece and the abstract Spanish-inspired, Modern, Ballet infused movements that she created.

Be sure to look out for the awesome costuming and props that Fritts intentionally chose to tie the overall theme together. Fritts’ advisor is Solveig Santillano, associate professor of Dance, who she said has truly helped to support her and push her throughout this process.

In reflection of the project so far, Fritts said, “I enjoy tailoring the dance to best highlight those cast in my piece so that has been a huge influence in shaping the piece. Dance, like everything, is the summation of all one’s individual experiences and learnings so every encounter, teacher, peer, and my own history has shaped who I am and thus, what I create.”

Elizabeth Bullinger is a senior double major in Dance and Dance Education.

Bullinger said her piece, “specifically surrounds the topic of dance injury, and more specifically how injury can impact the way that dancers perceive themselves.”

Bullinger has had numerous injuries in her past and truly wanted to focus on how injuries impact individuals who use their bodies as a form of education, self-expression, and performance, as well as a source of income.

Maya Richards is a senior double major in Dance and Mathematics. Richardsis also a member of her dad’s drum group, Yume Daiko, based in Cleveland, Ohio.

In addition, Richards was born and raised in Japan until the age of 8, which is where her inspiration stemmed from when creating her piece. Richards really wanted to focus on her personal heritage and background when creating her dance.

When Richards and her family lived in Japan, her father and brother were members of a Japanese Taiko drum group. The Taiko drum is a specific type of drum originating in Japan and in the past was mainly used for communication, although it has evolved into performance art.

Richards said, “For my piece, I am bringing my drum group to perform music live on stage with the dancers. I am looking to showcase some aspects of Japanese culture through the drum/drummers, movement motifs, and costuming.”

Her piece features six dancers and mainly utilizes the modern dance style while also tying in some contemporary dance movements.

A major piece of the senior dance majors capstone project is a research component that is paired with an extensive paper that the students write. Richards found that there is not an abundant amount of long-term research that speaks to the specific subject she is exploring, therefore, she took it upon herself to do her own research.

Richards went through an IRB proposal where she submitted paperwork through the Internal Review Board at Mercyhurst to ensure ethical research. She has administered confidential interviews with dancers in the Mercyhurst dance department as well as former and current professional dancers currently in the field as a means of conducting meaningful research for her project.

Richards’ piece features fourteen dancers performing contemporary movements.

Her cast is the largest group in the performance this year and she said that “It’s refreshing to work with that many dancers since our numbers were very limited during the COVID restrictions last year, but it’s also a challenge since I’ve never worked with such a large group.”

Nevertheless, Richards is extremely pleased with the community present in her rehearsals, “I love the welcoming environment we have created that allows for fun, laughter, and conversation in addition to working on the material.”

Richards has truly appreciated and enjoyed the process especially, “Being able to choose a topic that is so personal to me and many others in our department while also bringing more research to the field of dance has been rewarding thus far and will continue to be through this process.”

Although she cannot wait to see her hard work come to life on stage in April, she is making sure to appreciate every moment that leads up to it.

These are just a few spotlights on the pieces that will be present at the Raw Edges performance. Be sure to attend one of the performances to see these pieces come to life as well as to support the Dance Department and these talented creators.

There will be three total performances, a debut on April 29 at 7 p.m., April 30 at 2 and 7 p.m., as well as a performance on May 1 at 2 p.m.