Esmé Puzio / Daily Nexus

From April 7-10 at the Hatlen Theater, the annual UC Santa Barbara Spring Dance Concert, “Visions of Vibrancy,” highlighted the talent of senior dancers as they showcased their dancing and choreography skills. Director of Dance Performance and assistant professor  Brandon Whited directed this two-hour concert, consisting of student-choreographed dances that displayed a variety of dance styles, from contemporary to ballet to hip-hop. Each piece had a unique message behind it, such as moving through different stages of life and embracing the world’s diversity. The concert also featured the dance company from “It’s Been Nice” by Yusha-Marie Sorzano, along with the company’s senior BFA choreographers.

As one of the last performances that senior dancers would perform on campus, many expressed how emotional this past weekend was for them. “It feels surreal,” said Ana Ko Glass, a fourth-year BFA dance major. “Especially with the pandemic, it’s harder to see my growth, as dancing in my living room is a completely different experience than being in the studio. However, I have learned to put more trust in my body and technique, allowing myself to expand and explore my artistry. I find myself asking ‘why not’ more often.”

Glass also stated that “being able to be in the studios and on stage again is something I will never take for granted. Whether you are a dancer or not, COVID-19 changed everyone. I’ve always known dance as an art form that communicates with the body, but COVID has brought me more in tune with myself. I believe dancers are often trained to leave their normal life at the door as they enter the studio and are told to forget about it and just dance. But when we had to lock down, suddenly it felt like there was this collision of navigating my personal life and dance life in the same physical space. I have started to channel the energy and how I am feeling from my personal life into my dance movement. Sometimes, being able to physicalize the build of energy helps me realign my perspective on what I am feeling.”

Fourth-year BFA dance major Robbie Rosenmiller expressed very similar thoughts to fellow peers. He mentioned how it felt rewarding to dance on stage, “especially after two years of a pandemic and feeling trapped at home and pushing through each day. It is exciting  to look back and see the improvement over the four years.” Rosenmiller also stated that his favorite part of this spring concert was “seeing my fellow seniors create something. Especially Britney Walton. Her choreography is so powerful, and it inspires me every time I see it.”

Glass, Rosenmiller and the other dancers spent the past few months working together to ensure that the concert would go well. Although tiring, they expressed how memorable their last few rehearsals were together. Rosenmiller mentioned that his favorite memory from rehearsing was “letting my cast lead warm ups, since it’s great to reverse the roles and learn from my students at times.” Glass had a similar response and conveyed her passion and love choreographing: “When my dancers are rehearsing and they ace sections we’ve been working on, it sparks more inspiration for the journey the piece will take,” Glass said. “These are my last chances to dance with this specific group of people. With the senior class specifically, since we are a small group, it’s definitely bittersweet because we’ve been so close since freshman year.” 

Although the senior dance company will tour Europe during the summer, this is one of the last times they will appear on a stage at UCSB. Being a part of the senior dance company is not an easy feat, as much blood, sweat and tears were spent in practice rooms for the past few years. When asked if they had any advice or last words to give to their juniors, Glass responded that “there will always be chaos around us, and dance is a unique outlet to help connect people together — knowing that it is okay to not always have to have a smile on your face and it’s okay to feel what you are feeling. You can’t control how everything in life will go, but you can control how your actions, and how you, react to it.” Similar to Glass, Rosenmiller tells his peers to not  “be afraid to go outside the box. I thought I would never be able to choreograph a street-dance piece in the spring concert, but here I am. Push and question the boundary in dance because, essentially, there isn’t one. Believe in yourself and nothing will stop you.”

A version of this article appeared on pg. 8 of the May 5, 2022, print edition of the Daily Nexus.