By Cami Gore
University of Maryland dance and theatre majors’ worlds have intertwined in the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies’ production of “The Visit.”
According to the TDPS website, “The Visit” is an “allegorical dark comedy” that explores “under what circumstances can a society skew their morality for comfort and personal gain?”
Two dance majors are brought in about halfway through the first act to perform a duet representing lead characters Anton and Clara.
According to choreographer Kendra Portier, “the movement duet is somewhat of an abstraction of the text between Anton and Clara. It isn’t them as young couple. It isn’t a flashback. But it is a way of seeing two people together, witnessing some kind of intimacy, not being able to clearly define or label their relationship to each other and to then draw a connection to the way that recalling past love is slippery.”
The duet is double cast. Junior Peyton Fishman and sophomore Olivia Shamy perform in half of the shows. Senior Jemma Lehner and sophomore Gabrielle Woska perform in the other half.
“I originally was supposed to do the duet with Gabi and Jemma with Peyton, but after practicing with both partners Kendra saw that we both had better connections with the partners that we weren’t casted with,” Shamy said.
“The duet can be nostalgic. It can be sexy. It can be a kind of being with someone else that [is] difficult to convey in words,” said Portier.
The intimacy created by the movement was an initial challenge to the dancers. “Peyton and I had to work on getting past the uncomfortable eye contact,” Shamy said.
On working with the actors, Woska said: “They did very different warm-ups, mostly vocal, that strangely helped me in a way I never would’ve considered. The people I worked with were awesome and treated us like we had been rehearsing with them the entire time.”
Both Portier and the dancers did not have much experience working in theatre.
“When I am a choreographer working with a director, depending on the relationship, of course, I am often listening to the director’s aims and finding ways to utilize my point of view to enhance their vision, even if that means disagreeing, going rogue, or simply being in absolute agreement,” Portier said.
Woska hopes for an opportunity to collaborate with the theatre department again in the future.
“Ultimately, I think there should be more chances created for dancers to work with actors and vice versa because we can definitely teach each other a lot,” she said.
“The Visit” opened on Sept. 28, 2019 and will run until Saturday, Oct. 5. Performances take place at the Kay Theatre at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. Tickets can be purchased here.
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of David Andrews.
Cami Gore is a sophomore journalism and dance major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.