A few words on Moving Images

Naiya Laskin and Lucy Severson

The Hamline Dance Ensemble opened their spring dance show on April 20 titled “Moving Images.” 

Last winter, they had previewed several pieces now featured in the final show, and asked for feedback. Witnessing the differences and growth from then to now was an exciting treat for Hamline students. Artistic director Kaori Kenmotsu told the Oracle that both the winter and spring showcases are yearly events, but the ongoing pandemic meant this was not possible for a few years. 

“In this art form, we have to get [choreographed pieces] out of the studio,” Kenmotsu said. “If it stays in the studio, it only grows a certain amount.”

Kenmotsu also discussed the choices she made to set the mood. Before the show, movers could be seen warming up onstage, stretching and chatting quietly. Following this was a pre-show consisting of exercises and activities the dance ensemble would do in rehearsals, fondly titled RSFR (Random Shit From Rehearsal) in the program. It consisted of trust falls, sloughing and some rhythm and hip-hop dance. While this happened, the house lights remained on, and the atmosphere was light-hearted and fun. 

Kenmotsu said she had wanted to break the fourth wall with the “random shit” and casual rehearsal clothes in order to invite the audience inside when it was built back up again. She told the tech crew to build the set around the dancers, slowly increasing the sound levels and formalizing the space so the shift would not be sudden or shocking.

As the prelude concluded, the curtains hiding backstage and forming the wings quietly lowered, and the lighting gradually shifted from house to stage. The prepared numbers would begin from there.

The performance was a fantastic way for students to showcase their talents and learned skills. Even if one was not interested in joining the dance ensemble, the costumes and lighting departments also had their hands full with the show, and they did wonderfully. Many students, such as Funsho Salako and Solange Atakora, even got to choreograph their own pieces. 

Salako and Atakora had ended the dance show with a duet to “Unholy” by Sam Smith. The piece, “Blind Sided,” had brought down the house with its smooth, high-energy choreography. Audience members had been hooked instantly, cheering and yelling as the performers danced like they owned the stage—which, for those few minutes, they did.

Salako said she and Atakora were inspired by hip-hop movement and settings, but they did a lot of freestyling in order to find what worked and what did not. Some things wound up changing at the last minute. 

“It was really great putting my work out there,” Salako said. 

Emily Larson, sophomore at Hamline and second year ensemble member, began choreographing for the ensemble this year. She described her vision for “Daydream,” a dance to “Love Is Complicated” by Labrinth. 

“I was just driving and my friend turned on this song and I was just like ‘I see the movement in my head right now,’” Larson said. “The more I choreographed it, the more I realized how I feel when I have dissociative episodes. There were moments where we looked like we were being puppeteered. There were moments where there was frustration in the movement, like ‘why can’t I get out of this?’ It’s about going through the motions of everyday life and wondering if any of it is real.” 

Carmen Garcia, a junior at Hamline and second year ensemble member, found that this year, the dance ensemble has really begun to become more of a community. 

“We worked in lots of small group pieces together and were able to build relationships with each other,” Garcia said. “That didn’t really happen that much last year, especially coming out of COVID, we didn’t know how to socialize.” 

If interested in joining the dance ensemble, there will be auditions in the fall. According to Kenmotsu, they are interested in people of different skill levels, artistic styles, body types, ability levels and performance strengths. If you would like to learn and collaborate with other movers, keep an eye out for announcements next semester.