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Mac Dance’s annual showcase carries on despite COVID-19

Performing arts have the power to, for a brief moment in time, bring people together in a shared experience. This year’s Mac Dance showcase The Show Goes On is a reminder of the students’ ability to come together, albeit online, to share their love of dance. The group features a range of styles: from jazz and tap, to musical theatre and Bollywood.

Last year, Mac Dance’s annual showcase was held at Mohawk College and was almost entirely sold out. This year, the show will be held virtually as a YouTube live stream on Feb. 27.

“We want to make it feel as much like a typical show as possible, so we made a show order, a virtual program, we’re having an intermission and we’re having raffles. Chance [Sabouri, Mac Dance president] is going to do a little speech at the beginning. The biggest difference obviously is that you’re not going to be sitting in a chair screaming at people on stage in front of you,” said Lauren Shoss, a fourth-year health sciences student and secretary of Mac Dance.

In September, choreographers and dancers began the process of preparing dances for the showcase. Each piece is two to three minutes in length and it is up to the choreographer to choose the music and set the choreography for their group.

Dance classes this year have been taught over Zoom, posing its own unique set of challenges, from half of the choreographer’s body getting cut out of the frame to dancing in cramped spaces to getting kicked out of the call due to unstable internet connections. However, through mutual support, everyone moved past these challenges together.

“We’ve heard from a lot of our dancers that people are just so thankful. They see dance as a break and escape from the stress of school. I know that’s how people feel in a typical year — you go into the studio and you kind of leave the rest of the world behind [to] focus on dance for a bit and just let yourself really get into your movement, so it’s really nice that people are still able to get that from the year,” said Shoss.

The Silhouette interviewed some of Mac Dance’s choreographers to get an in-depth look at some of the pieces that will be performed this year.

C/O Mac Dance Team

Going Home by Kevin Vong

Vong described his piece’s style as a type of hip hop fusion that blends contemporary and hip hop styles.

Choreographed to Sonn and Ayelle’s Lights Out and Vance Joy’s Going Home, the piece pushes traditional definitions of hip hop. Where hip hop is typically defined by its hard-hitting movement, Vong brings out the texture and subtlety with particular attention to emotion in his piece.

“Especially during the pandemic, [I was inspired by] going home to reconnect to what is important to you instead of looking out to the material world. Sometimes family, home, is what you should rely on and it’s really important,” explained Vong.

For Vong, dance has become a form of home and he hopes that the audience will feel that through movement. Currently in his fourth year of linguistics, Vong said dance will forever remain as a source of inspiration and for all intents and purposes, his second home.

C/O Janet Bell

Got It in You & Grave Digger by Lauren Shoss

Shoss roots her dance pieces in storytelling. Drawing from her personal life experiences, her two pieces Got it in You and Grave Digger are two halves of a whole, with antagonistic but related storylines.

Got It in You, a lyrical dance set to the song of the same name by BANNERS, is based on the idea of finding the strength and power within yourself to overcome life’s obstacles and challenges.

Complimentary to Got It in You,Grave Digger is a contemporary piece exemplifying the feeling of being weighed and held down. Set to the song by Matt Maeson of the same name, Shoss described the piece’s darker and more aggressive tones as a welcome challenge, as she branched out of her comfort zone to create the more intense piece.

Now in her fourth year of the health sciences program, Lauren is considering pursuing a master’s degree in sports psychology, with the intention of working with athletes from a mental health perspective.

“I think [work with athlete mental health] is really needed in the dance world. I’ve seen a lot of my teammates suffer from body image issues, low self-confidence, perfectionism and eating disorders . . . It is a very neglected population, but they’re in need of support,” explained Shoss.

C/O Hannah Armstrong

Burlesque by Hannah Armstrong
Armstrong’s jazz group is channelling their inner Christina Aguilera in her piece entitled Burlesque, inspired by the film. In her first year choreographing a jazz piece, Armstrong decided upon the theme of burlesque as a fun and uplifting dance concept.

“The biggest challenge was probably just trying to envision how I wanted the routine, while also trying to make it [conducive to] online [viewing] . . . What can make a jazz routine really great are the transitions, group formations, interaction between dancers and just the energy on stage, so trying to replicate that online was probably the biggest struggle for me,” explained Armstrong.

As one of two co-vice presidents for the recreational dance team, Armstrong admires that Mac Dance connects diverse individuals by their mutual love of dance. In the spirit of The Show Goes On, she detailed how the Mac Dance community has impacted her as a dancer and as a person.

“I did competitive dance throughout high school and I always assumed that that would be the end of my kind of dancing career, but coming to university and then finding this team [allowed me to] keep doing what I love. . . I’m very thankful that everybody is here because they want to [dance] for fun and because they’re invested,” Armstrong said.

C/O Janet Bell

Vienna by Abby Buller

When finding inspiration for her piece, Buller found that she clicked instantly with Billy Joel’s Vienna. As a tap choreographer, she liked the song for both its musical elements in combination with tap sounds as well as its message.

As tap dance is largely dependent on dancers’ timing of tap sounds with each other and the music, creating a tap dance in an online environment poses its own set of challenges. With technical difficulties in teaching over Zoom, Buller pointed to the timing of intricate steps as one of her greatest challenges.

Buller described her creative way of splicing dancers’ videos together for her dance’s showcase performance.

“When I get dancers to send me their videos, I want [to coordinate] their feet sounds, but I need to [overlay the] music in with it. I was so happy when this worked out — the [entire group] has Bluetooth headphones, so they’re going to listen to the song through their headphones, film out loud so the can get their feet [sounds] and then I’ll put the music in over top,” explained Buller.

The Mac Dance team hopes that The Show Goes On will bring people together in an otherwise distant time, reminding them that even though we are physically distant, we are still all in this together.

“Mac Dance reminded me of what the dance community is supposed to be just like. A bunch of people coming together to have fun, to share a common passion, to create something really beautiful and meaningful together and just having a great time,” said Buller.

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