The Valencia College dance department presents its annual Choreographers’ Showcase this weekend.
These performances provide students with a creative outlet to show off their work, and demonstrate a variety of dance genres. Valencia College spoke with student Jade Scott McCartney to learn what the dance program has meant to her, and what’s in store for this year’s showcase.
You were passionate about dance from a very young age, and then circumstance forced you to step away from it perhaps forever. Describe how you felt when you re-discovered dance at Valencia?
Dance has always been a part of me and I honestly can’t believe I almost let it go. After getting hit by a car and being hospitalized right before auditions for a high-school magnet program, I knew that if I didn’t train extensively during high school, my technique wouldn’t be up to par with the rest of the dance world. So I thought my career as a dancer was over. I was planning on using my time at Valencia to complete my prerequisites in Physical Therapy, so that I could one day work as a physical therapist in a dance school or for a dance company. I’m very glad my passion for performing and teaching dance clouded over that idea and showed me what I truly need. After going through the audition process for Valencia’s dance program, I grabbed all my stuff from the studio and as I walked out I had the insanely overwhelming feeling to cry. I cried and cried the whole drive home only to realize I can’t throw away one of the most important parts of who I am. I always felt welcome in the Valencia dance halls because I was surrounded by people who NEEDED to dance or else their lives were out of whack. I felt free, alive and ecstatic when I took dance back into my life.
What are the team dynamics like in your course of study? As each students designs his/her own choreography, how is everyone in the dance program collaborating to bring the showcase to life?
Understanding the importance of a family and what a team consists of is one of the most important things I learned in my time at Valencia. Every week, the choreographers of the showcase ask me and other choreographers to drop in during their rehearsals to critique and explain notes to the dancers in a different way, so that they fully understand. We work with each other each week and make sure that what the choreographer wants is being portrayed on the stage.
Through your work in this year’s showcase what are you trying to convey with the choreography that you designed. What messages or feelings do you hope the audience will receive or experience?
The title of my piece is “Underground Soul,” and it’s a black and white underground party that no one is allowed to but the audience! As the choreographer, I want this piece to portray what a good time looks like; it’s influenced by a dream I dreamt and my own personal disco dancing nights. My dancers are required to dance with poise and their utmost confidence. I want the audience to fall in love with the dancers’ aura and who they are as they are grooving all over the stage.
How would you characterize the experience of attending national dance programs while representing a two-year college? How do you overcome stigma that might be associated with that? How has Valencia prepared you to stay competitive at the national level?
I’ve always felt more than ready because of my extensive training at Valencia. I’m honestly more afraid of the skills tests at Valencia than taking classes in other national programs. All of the times I have traveled to dance festivals or conferences, people assumed our company was part of a four-year conservatory, but we are just well-trained, two-year program dancers. So any stigma that is ever associated with us being a two-year program is shut down after our highly-trained dancers start showing what we know. Our professors train us at such a high difficultly level, because they only have two years to instill those techniques. Our Valencia dance professors teach us intense levels of patterning skills that are the foundation of how we learn as dancers. These aspects of dance etiquette, patterning, dance performance, the art of choreographing, the way we are required to embody confidence, and to teach ourselves that we can do anything we set our mind to. That’s how Valencia has prepared me to dance at a national level. Valencia dancers are pre-professionals who are required to believe and portray themselves as professionals already.
Why is it important that Valencia continue to invest time and money in the dance program? What does it do for the college and the community?
Valencia should always continue to invest in the dance program because of the wonderful artists who come out of this program. This program gives the dance students the opportunity to travel, work with master artists, and maintain a busy dance schedule for only half the price of university tuition, and all the resources of working with different departments to create showcases for the public. It truly gives the artists of Florida the chance to get amazing training at low prices while learning everything they need to know.
General admission tickets are $12. Tickets for seniors and Valencia faculty, staff or students are $10 – for children 12 & Under, $6.
When: Nov. 18 & 19 at 8 p.m.
Where: East Campus Performing Arts Center, 701 N. Econlockhatchee Trail, Orlando.