RSO brings concepts to life through dance

By Marie MacCune

(Jim Coleman Photography/Courtesy of Alive with Dance)
(Jim Coleman Photography/Courtesy of Alive With Dance)

Dance isn’t just entertainment, it’s art – at least according to Melissa Byrd, the president of Alive With Dance, a University of Massachusetts Registered Student Organization founded in 1989 that currently has over 75 current members.

Byrd, a senior dance and communications double major, has been involved with the RSO since her freshman year. She explained that Alive With Dance is not your typical club, as it has a significant academic component. Majors within the dance department showcase their senior theses through one of Alive With Dance’s two spring concerts.

This year’s concert showcasing their work is titled “Part IV.”

“We are required to research and choreograph our senior thesis so the RSO gives us a way to perform it for the whole campus because the department doesn’t have the money to fund the whole concert,” she said. “It’s a way for us to do it on the stage and all that with lights, as well as involve other dancers on campus in our pieces.”

(Jim Coleman Photography/Courtesy of Alive with Dance)
(Jim Coleman Photography/Courtesy of Alive With Dance)

This club is not exclusive to only UMass students – a few other Five College students are involved as well.

The group’s other concert this year is part of their Emerging Choreographers’ Series, titled “Rendered.”

Choreographers who are part of the ECS are juniors and sophomores, and must go through a proposal approval process with the RSO’s faculty advisor in order to bring their piece to life.

Byrd described the pieces that will be part of this year’s concerts saying, “They’re all based off of different topics and that’s what makes them really cool. For example my piece is based off of phenomenology and time … and exploring those through movement.”

According to Byrd, students have shown creativity and innovation with the pieces they choreograph. She explained some students are incorporating live music into their performances while others are including different types of technology such as video clips. One student is using martial arts fighters in his piece.

This year, the concerts will feature 23 choreographers. These students work with lighting designers and production crews through the Fine Arts Center.

(Jim Coleman Photography/Courtesy of Alive with Dance)
(Jim Coleman Photography/Courtesy of Alive With Dance)

Byrd sees this as a great opportunity for students who are hoping to pursue dance performance outside of the University.

“You get to learn how a whole performance is set up,” she said.

Alive With Dance’s work, however, goes beyond the two spring concerts.

Byrd said members teach dance classes on Sundays during the fall semester in Totman Gymnasium. Anyone can attend these classes to learn a variety of dances including jazz contemporary, ballet, hip-hop and even Pilates.

More personally, Byrd sees Alive with Dance as way to spend more time pursuing her passion.

“I just love the chance to dance a lot, like this year I’m in rehearsals five times a week,” she said. “I love that it’s a community and you get to meet new people because each year you’re cast in a new piece so you get to work with all different performers.”

She also enjoys using Alive With Dance as a way of getting people to see dance in a new light.

“Dances are not just dances, they’re works of art,” she said. “It exposes other people … to a new process of making dance as art versus dance as entertainment.”

She explained, “People are thinking, researching their topics, and trying to make their concepts work. Its people coming together to bring these concepts to life.”

Both spring concerts will take place later this semester. “Rendered” will show April 16-18 at 8 p.m. at Hampshire College and “Part IV” will show April 23-25 at 8 p.m. in Bowker Auditorium.

Marie MacCune can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MarieMacCune.