It will always been a special place that I hold dear to my heart.
As Senior year begins to come to a close, even though I don't want to admit it, I have to say goodbye to yet another meaningful thing at JMU: The Mainstage Theatre in the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts. The Mainstage Theatre isn't just any proscenium performance space; it represents the ultimate goal every Dance Major hopes to accomplish by the end of their dance journey at JMU. It's the largest venue on campus for dance performances, seating over 450 audience members.
Once a year, the Dance Program puts on a four-night performance in this space featuring works choreographed by faculty, guest artists, and students with advanced choreographic skills. This concert is known as "New Voices in Dance" featuring the Contemporary Dance Ensemble. Every Dance major dreams of having the opportunity to perform on this stage before they graduate from JMU. If you get the chance to perform here more than once, it's definitely something to be cherished and people will definitely be jealous.
There's something special about getting to dance on the big stage with all of the lights shining on you from the wings and overhead. One of my favorite things is looking up and seeing all of the different flies and the ceiling that never seems to end with the catwalk at the very top. Not to mention looking out into the audience and sometimes not even being able to distinguish faces because there are so many people, both in the orchestra and up in the balcony. It's humbling to know that you've worked so hard on these pieces since the beginning of September and now they're finally being performed in a professional space and everyone is there to watch you do what you love.
Dancing on the Mainstage opens up a whole realm of cool effects that can be done throughout the concert. This past show, there was a fog machine used in some of the pieces, strobe lights, and even rain that came pouring down from a showerhead in the piece I performed in.
During a Mainstage performance show week, there's something indescribable in the air that I will always miss and be grateful for. Everyone is hyped up and excited to perform, and the energy is unlike anything I've experienced. You're assigned a dressing room and get to choose your own seating space with a vanity and mirror. It truly does feel like being in a professional company. There's music blasting and everyone gets ready together and takes pictures with their casts.
This past week was my second time performing in the "New Voices in Dance" concert on the Mainstage. I had the privilege of being cast in a faculty work for the second time in my Dance career at JMU. Getting to work with two prominent faculty members, Cynthia Thompson, Director of the Contemporary Dance Ensemble, and this year, Rubén Graciani, Director of the School of Theatre and Dance, has been such an incredible experience. Both pieces spanned over a six-month choreographic process, in which I became close with the dancers in both casts. We went through the challenging yet rewarding process together and grew as a cast in both of my experiences.
This past week brought the Contemporary Dance Ensemble members together in a new way and I definitely became closer with members of our cast and bonded over this unique experience. I participated in the ensemble's tradition of honoring the senior Dance majors in what is called "Senior Circle." During our warm-up each night before a show, a few seniors were selected and individually sat in the center of a circle created by the ensemble with their eyes closed.
Members of the ensemble took turns going up to the senior in middle and whispering words of admiration, memories, or something funny in the senior's ear. It was such a heartwarming and intimate experience getting to hear all of the wonderful and funny things people had to say to me.
Saying goodbye to a place where so many memories have been made and challenges have been overcome is difficult. Blood, sweat, and tears were left on this stage and memories that I will never forget. So thank you Mainstage and thank you Contemporary Dance Ensemble for making this yet another unforgettable concert.
Cover image courtesy of Emily Amey