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Auburn Theatre & Dance celebrates name change with season’s final concert


The Department of Theatre and Dance will celebrate generations of Auburn dancers and look to the future of performance with its last show of the season, the “…And Dance!” concert, April 20-23.

After a season-long celebration of the addition of “and dance” to the department’s name, Professor and Choreographer Adrienne Wilson hopes audiences further engage with the art of movement.

“Dance is for everybody. This is a pretty eclectic program,” Wilson said. “As we're getting ready for the production, realizing all the different styles of dance that are part of this program, all these different students who never would've met each other unless they had dance in common…It's a way to suspend your everyday life, and just let everything go for a while, and enjoy a performance for an hour or so.”

Wilson worked for seven years to add “and dance” to the Department of Theatre. She first came to Auburn as a visiting scholar, then stayed to create the dance minor. Next, a musical theatre degree was created.

Wilson presented a compelling argument to Auburn leadership on how the dance program boosts recruitment, separates Auburn from other institutions and gets more people involved with theatre productions.

“If you're going to have a musical theatre program, you need to have a serious dance component, because musical theatre assumes one wants to be a triple threat,” Wilson said. “If you're not a musical theatre major, having a sense of how your body works and how to take care of it, knowing movement possibilities for working on a role and finding the joy of dance along the way is how I teach.”

In 2021, the Auburn University Board of Trustees approved the name change. Wilson’s effort was complemented by Senior Lecturer Jeri Dickey, who teaches the program’s dance lab courses. Dickey co-choreographed the “And Dance!” concert with Wilson, highlighting the connection between performance and audience through shared experiences.

“I began thinking about dance as a universal language. As dancers, we tell stories with our bodies. As a director, I give the performers an outline of a concept. Then the dancers in turn fill out the piece,” Dickey said. “For example, in ‘Awaken,’ I wanted to address the need for human interaction. During these past few years, isolation has become a safe place and many of us still struggle to open up and reach out to loved ones. It is my hope that people will see that though we have struggles, we are not alone and there is hope.”

The show also features guest artists including internationally recognized choreographer and founder of the Evans Somatic Dance Institute Bill Evans, dance artist and educator Courtney World and Auburn alumna Anne Nelson ’21.

During her freshman year at Auburn, Nelson severed her spine in a car accident. Before the pandemic, she and Dickey rehearsed a dance routine in which Nelson moves from her wheelchair to aerial silks, representing change, struggle and freedom. Now a nurse in Birmingham, Nelson returns to the Telfair Peet Mainstage to perform that routine.

Wilson and Dickey hope the addition of “and dance” to the department’s name will help it draw more guest artists to offer diverse performance styles and different perspectives to Auburn students.

Since the name changed, more students have signed up for the dance minor each year. Dickey said it’s a promising start to cultivating a healthier, more creative student body through the art of dance and movement.

“I want people to know that we are here,” Dickey said. “I invite anyone that wants to dance to come and take a class. Usually, it only takes one dance class and students are hooked. It is not only good for your physical health, the mind-body connection is so beneficial to our mental health. I believe the department will grow now that the word is officially out and in our title.”

“…And Dance!” will conclude the Department of Theatre and Dance’s 2022-2023 season. The dance concert will be held from April 20-23 on the Telfair B. Peet Mainstage Theatre. To buy tickets to the dance concert, visit the department’s ticketing page.

Tags: Theatre and Dance Arts and Culture

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