Emotion Through Movement

The Upper School Honors Dance Company allows students to connect with their emotions through the rigors of art.
At the beginning of the school year, when Vivian Boyd ’24 began reading Lynne Blom’s The Intimate Act of Choreography in her Upper School Honors Dance Company, something deep within her started to materialize. The book discussed transforming emotion into dance by using balance, symmetry, motion and shape. To Vivian, who had been dancing since she was three years old, this was a revelation. Until this point, movement was movement, nothing deeper. Now each contour of her body became an articulation of feeling. 

Each day in class became an exploration. Led by Upper School dance teacher Angie Muzzy, Vivian and her six peers in the dance company would discuss Blom’s book and then work through improvised dance movements of their own. In the Upper School dance studio, located on the second floor of the Seal Athletic Center, music would play, and the dancers, moved spontaneously by song, would sweep gracefully across the hardwood dance floor, their dances saturated with emotion. 

“When you hear a song and put movement to it, you’re really dancing out some kind of emotion. It’s hard to explain, because you don’t exactly know what is bringing out the movement,” Vivian says. She stumbles a bit in explanation; this is something that can only be expressed through a practice deeper than words allow. “You’re just moving off of feeling. If you’re happy, then the tone of the movement is happy. The choreography might be more curved rather than linear and sharp. Your flow and phrasing might be more free in tone.” 

This practice, performed daily by the Upper School Honors Dance Company, serves as preparation for the solo pieces each of the seven dancers showcase in November. It is a culminating piece for the artists, meant to display what each of them has learned during their time dancing at Collegiate. Although the students perform alone, the atmosphere of the dance studio is a space where students are enthusiastically supportive of one another. Collegiate’s dance program has evolved to allow students to connect with themselves and their peers while perfecting their craft. “The Honors Dance Company course serves as the culminating and integrative praxis experience of a Collegiate student’s dance education,” says Angie Muzzy, Upper School dance teacher. “It aims to enrich a student’s knowledge of the craft of choreography and the experience of performing. Implementing theory into practice, students apply their skills in production, choreography, performance and leadership to produce the Honors Dance Showcase.” 

The song Vivian chose for her solo is “Words I Used,” by The Backseat Lovers. The performance, like the emotion contained within it, is entirely her own; she chooses the lighting, the costume and all the choreography. Every week, the company provides feedback on each dancer’s work. It’s a process that allows students to learn the intricacies involved in putting on a show. The culminating solo, workshopped in the studio among a cohort of supportive peers, is a demonstration of creativity, emotion and skill. “We go so deeply into how to develop emotion into a full dance,” Vivian says. “I love the process, and I’ve grown as both a dancer and a person because of it. Every time I leave the studio I feel like I’ve learned about life, and I just feel so much better.”