Students dance to the beat

 Ryerson dancers perform their final piece, Rouge, on opening night.    Photo Courtesy of Wendy Chan

Ryerson dancers perform their final piece, Rouge, on opening night.
Photo Courtesy of Wendy Chan

All eyes were fixed on the young dancer who faced the crowd.

She was dressed in pyjamas, her hair in pigtails, and was holding a can of whipped cream. It was the scene of an upset girl, as she brooded in her bedroom. There was no music. Instead, this was the first and only dancer of the night to communicate in the form of spoken word. She told a story of how difficult it is to truly forgive. While lying on the stage floor, she comically squirted some whipped cream into her mouth.

Laughter erupted. Then, one girl in the audience whispered to her friend: “Story of my life.”

Audience members cheered, clapped  and gasped, and a few sniffles could be heard among the crowd at Choreographic Works 2013, the annual dance production put on by the Ryerson Theatre School.

“We’re the future of dance,” says Justin De Bernardi, a fourth-year dancer in the production.

De Bernardi choreographed the final performance of the night, Rogue, which included 70 dancers, one of the largest dance pieces to be presented on a Ryerson stage.

“It’s something that I’ve been wanting to do for a few months now,” says De Bernardi.          “(W)hat’s so beautiful about this show is you get to do it all under Ryerson’s roof and everyone supports you.”

In the beginning, though, De Bernardi says that a few people doubted his ability to fit so many dancers in one piece.

He quickly shrugged them off, telling them, “You can put 200 people on stage if you want. There are no limits. There’s a way to make everything work.”

Thursday night’s performance, the first of eight, consisted of 26 original pieces. Each lasted only five minutes but included intricate dance compositions and managed to evoke an array of emotions, revealing a high level of talent from Ryerson’s dancers.

A multitude of themes and styles of dance were  displayed in Choreographic Works, including jazz, contemporary, hip hop and ballet. There were also timely ideas explored, such as the modern digital age and zombie apocalypse.

Only 40 pieces were selected, out of more than 100, to be part of this year’s Choreographic Works. There are two different shows, and every other night about half of these 40 pieces are showcased.  Students began formulating their dance numbers last semester, and refined them further during the holidays. Once back on campus in January, the dancers began an intensive rehearsal schedule.

Adrienne Lipson, a fourth-year dancer and choreographer, says she was no stranger to finding herself at school long into the night.

“That first week back is crazy. It’s a full 12-hour day for most people.”

Now that the show is here, Lipson says she considers it a relief that the “nitty-gritty” work of cleaning up their pieces is finished. The dancers can now just “perform and have fun.”

Producer Kenny Pearl, who is a seasoned performer and has previously taught at the Juilliard School of Music, says he thinks Ryerson dance students are at the highest level and that this year’s show offers audiences a wide variety of expression.

One of the show’s dancers and choreographers Sylvie Moquin says, “This show showcases so many different voices and powerful voices.

“There’s guaranteed going to be something the audience can relate to, and hopefully will be touched by.”

This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on March 13, 2013.

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