What started out as an open dance night for the dance department Friday turned into a bit of a life lesson and a brief tour of the education and career opportunities of a dancer at the recital in Kinesiology and Athletics 231 from 6-7:30 p.m.
Dance professor Sunny Smith explained a bit of how dance education works at American River College, how different levels of education can lead to different types of employment in the field and the importance of gaining a higher education in dance.
Smith encouraged students to continue their education, saying that even though she grew up in a dance studio, it really wasn’t until she went to college that she “grew up.”
She also challenged the notion of dance as “nonacademic.”
Smith spoke of efforts in the deep American South to help African Americans connect to their African heritage through the study of their dances.
African dance is unique among tribes. It is “so tribal it belongs to you and you alone,” said Smith. By studying specific dances passed through the generations, researchers can pinpoint the family’s origin on the African continent.
Dance therapy, a field that combines dance and psychology, is also an option for dancers who want to continue their education past typical dance performance or instruction, according to Smith.
But there was plenty of dancing at the recital, too.
The set opened with the energetic tap dance class performance to Pitbull’s “Timber,” featuring Kesha, with over 30 students of varying levels of experience.
Dressed in plaid tied-off button-down shirts and denim Daisy Dukes and pants, the tap troupe put a country barn dance spin to the hit song.
Martine Hyson, dance major, was a highlight of the evening with his pop and animation styles of dance to a french song he said reminds him of “time travel … in slow motion.”
Hyson grew watching his father perform robotics and animatronics on Pier 39 in San Francisco, where he was a dancer. Self-taught, Hyson took what he saw and ran with it.
“It’s deeper with me,” he said. “Sometimes you just don’t have the words to express the feelings … (Dance) moves me, myself, because it feels like I’m speaking through my body.”
Dance and audio production double major Elias Martinez performed an emotional freestyle dance to “Beneath Your Beautiful,” by Labrinth, featuring Emeli Sande.
“I chose (the song) because … there’s a lot of people that have their walls they put up, so the lyrics say … it’s really beautiful, ‘Take it of … I want to see inside,’ see the true meaning of a person. I just felt really connected to it, because that’s how I am,” said Martinez.
He said the song reflects his experience with romantic relationships in the past.
“They don’t know what’s going on inside of them so they try to hide a lot,” he said, “so I try to let them know, just be you. Be the true you.”
The choreography reflects the sentiment expressed in the music.
“The falls are very important to me. There’s no padding, and so you just fall. And I wanted a lot of falls in the dance, because once you fall, you have to get back up,” Martinez said. “There was a crucial part where someone falls and it shows their struggle through it and crawling on the ground. But someone’s going to be there to pick them up.”
Sinporya Allen, a dance major and choreographer for her group of students under her teacher, choreographed “Voodoo Dolls,” a hip-hop dance set to a DJ mix of Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball,” that mesmerized not only the audience, but the male dancers as well.
The dance told a story where the female participants in a hypnotizing dance competition steal the loot from some lost and confused male bank robbers.
There were several other performances that night, showcasing the diversity of the dance department through hip-hop, Middle Eastern dance fusion and ballet.
This informal set, whereby dancers could simply sign up with their music the day of the event, was a practice run of sorts for a bigger recital by the dance department scheduled for May 16-17 at 7 p.m. on the main stage in the ARC theater.