Radford dance performance explores “the war to end all wars”
To understand and convey the impact of World War I, Radford dance students premiered an original dance work, titled “Lost Souls: A Recollection of the Great War,” on Nov. 8 in the Albig Studio Theatre.
The 18 students in Assistant Professor of Dance Amy VanKirk’s Freshman and Transfer Seminar course choreographed and performed the 25-minute show that explored, through dance, the Great War’s impact on soldiers and their families. Sponsored by a grant from the Radford University Office of High Impact Practices, the show commemorated the 100th anniversary of the “war to end all wars.”
“This was not meant to be a direct reflection of historical events, but a way to display how dance can tell a story about an experience that is difficult to talk about and understand,” said VanKirk. “Not only do we ask the dancers to show their technical skills, but we want them to create movements and tell stories that are based on personal experiences, and work on authentic performance of that material.”
The dancers researched the war through historical letters, poetry and music as well as the work of other dance companies and the art of Associate Professor of Graphic Design Ken Smith in the Radford University Art Museum.
“Choreography is bringing people and ideas together to tell a story,” said Abigail Anderson, a freshman dance major from Johnson City, Tennessee. “It is exciting and a little scary.”
Emma Crawford, a junior dance major and transfer from Northern Virginia Community College, reflected on bringing the show to production.
“It was a process and a challenge to find the creativity to effectively tell the stories and perform,” Crawford said. “Another challenge was to fit the creativity and visions of 18 choreographers into one show.”
The intense subject matter pushed the students.
“I’ve never been to war, but it seems to me that we all have our own personal hells,” said Kim Bythewood, a freshman dance major from Springfield, Virginia. “I had to pull from my own personal experience to make a connection with the experiences of the soldiers and their families whom we studied.”
Freshman dance major Daria Gilbert’s father is a retired Marine. Through him and his experiences, the effects of war are real to her.
“It’s personal, and I tried to convert the pain and war’s powerful, long-lasting impact on my family into movement,” Gilbert said.