Danceworks 2019 to showcase ‘a palette of different ideas and flavors’


Kristine Liao/Daily Senior Staffer

Dancers perform the last piece of the Danceworks 2019 showcase. The concert opens Friday and runs through March 10 in the Josephine Louis Theater.

Vy Duong, Reporter


Ever since her first year at Northwestern, Weinberg senior Michelle Skiba has been carving out space in her calendar every Winter Quarter for Danceworks. Looking forward to her last show, Skiba said she is excited for people to see “a palette of different ideas and flavors” of the dance scene in Chicago.

Danceworks is an annual concert bringing together students, faculty and outside choreographers. The 2019 show opens Friday and runs through March 10 in the Josephine Louis Theater.

In this year’s performance, Northwestern dance Profs. Jeff Hancock and Joel Valentín-Martínez will be joined by Chicago-based artists Paige Fraser and J’Sun Howard in creating four pieces with a variety of styles. Skiba said the choreographers will hold a “talk-back” at the end of the opening night to interact with the audience.

As a fourth-time dancer in Danceworks, Skiba said what draws her back to the concert every year is the opportunity to hone her skills and challenge herself. She added the show’s caliber of dancing and production allows the cast members to fully reach their potential.

“We really have to reach the highest technical ability that we can achieve and the highest artistic quality that we can muster out of ourselves,” Skiba said.

Medill junior Amelia Langas, a former Daily staffer, said dancing was her “whole identity” before it started fading away when she became a journalism major at NU. She said she hopes to take back that part of her life and reconcile with her passion through Danceworks.

Langas said she is also drawn to the “adrenaline rush” of performing onstage that Danceworks offers. She added that she is excited to feel the the presence of the audience behind the luminous spotlight.

“Being on stage brings out a whole other part of people,” Langas said.

McCormick sophomore Helena Haddad said while she has enjoyed being in previous student-run performances, she wants to gain more professional experience with Danceworks’ 2019 show. She said the longer rehearsal period has enabled her to fully immerse herself in the pieces and explore a variety of ways to portray them.

Working with faculty members and acclaimed choreographers has been both challenging and rewarding, Haddad said. She added that while the intensity can be stressful, she loves seeing how the process evolves from mapping out raw ideas to piecing the puzzles together.

“I feel accomplished,” Haddad said. “I have grown so much in this process, just from collaborating with different people and doing different movements that I have never done before.”

Skiba noted that it is not always easy to instantly form a connection with the performance, but she tries to “dig deep as an artist” in order to make the story as earnest as possible. She said she hopes the audience can take something away from the performance, whether it is viewing the world through a different lens or reflecting on the past, present and future.

Describing the cast as a family, Skiba said everyone has funneled a lot of time and energy into this year’s concert. She said she has enjoyed getting to know other dancers and watching them flourish after starting the rehearsal process as very timid.

“Like a butterfly becoming its own, we started out just little caterpillars in the beginning,” Skiba said. “As we work more with the choreographers, the dance becomes more a part of our bodies. And when we add that extra layer of artistic voice, we become beautiful butterflies.”

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