Weight On Me: Exploring Human Emotions With Dance
For years, the Frostburg State University Dance Company—under the direction of Jamie McGreevy—has been putting on spectacular performances. Each semester, the concert would showcase a variety of dancers, styles, stories, and more.
Last fall, audience took a trip back to a 1950’s dance hall. The spring showcased both student choreography and student lighting designs, creating dances from contemporary to hip hop, even a dance set up like a runway.
One piece from the spring, however, was different from the rest.
Choreographed by McGreevy herself, the piece featuring three men—Zachary Fraser, Matthan Potts, and Matthew Clark. This two-fold trio featured three dancers, and three movements. With songs by Icelandic artist Ólafur Arnalds, the emotional number named “Weight On Me” told the story of the affects of societal pressures on humans, and how it affects us.
“I worked with three male dancers to create a trio that explore the idea of weight, physical and emotional, and how we hold it, carry it, place it, and share it.” McGreevy explains.
This piece was significant not just for it’s style and it’s raw, pertinent story, but because it inspired McGreevy to creature a longer movement, telling the same story. This will be featured in the upcoming Fall dance concert in the Performing Arts Center’s smallest theatre—the Studio Theatre. McGreevy’s inspiration stemmed from her original focus for the first trio, and was spurred even more by the trio itself. “That trio enticed me to dig deeper into the concept and expand it into a full evening length work. The intimate atmosphere of the studio theater seemed to be the perfect space to do this.”
Ólafur Arnalds has a unique sound of their own, using piano, strings, and some electronic beats to create an interesting and emotional sound, a style perfect for this movement, a continuous number that fills all of Act I, delving into stress, emotion, and coping. The “weight” McGreevy was inspired by is a concept very familiar in today’s society—especially amongst the college age group. The relevance of this piece means viewers of all ages could relate to the dance, perhaps in ways they can’t explain.
“Both Act I and II of this concert are rather “raw” and organic so the audience member with have the opportunity to be “in the moment” with the performers. If one audience member makes a connection to the work, our show will be a success.” McGreevy explains, adding, “Movement has also been extremely therapeutic for me. As someone who tends to be shy and introverted I have struggled at times with vocalizing but movement has given me an outlet to work through struggles and joys.”
Act II features a lot of improvisation, meaning much of the piece is not choreographed, it is the dancers reacting to the music emotionally and physically. Because none of the movement is planned out ahead of time, it allows for a wholly personal connection. “[This] is both exciting and scary for everyone involved because anything could happen.” McGreevy says.
Not only does this concert showcase amazing talent and passionate artists, it is an important form of expression and coping, one that many people may be able to connect with. A viewer could connect with a dance or a song on an emotional level, and understand or even get out, an emotion, thought, or feeling that had been stuck inside. McGreevy aims to allow this emotional catharsis for her dancers, and for the audience, reminding them “Dance is proven to enhance the ability to retain knowledge, assist in coping with depression and mental illness, as well as being a super fun way to exercise.”
McGreevy also wants the dancers and the audience to be able to interact and talk about what was done and what was seen, adding, “The audience will also have the opportunity to have a dialog with the performers, creators, and designers which I hope will heighten the unique experience.”
Senior dance company member, Krysten Gutrich gave her view of the concert, stating “The viewers should get a little sense of who each dancer is. The show gives a little sneak peak into their personal lives, especially in Act 1. It’s a very vulnerable and honest approach to the weights we as women endure. The audience will get all of the dancers physically, emotionally, and mentally.” She adds, “I also think we’re taught that being vulnerable is a bad thing or a sign of weakness and this show displays that that’s not the case. Our generation tends to avoid our emotions and in this concert we face our fears and use our vulnerability as tools for the initiation of the movement. I think it will be good for students to see than rather just read or hear about being vulnerable.”
The concert additionally features light design by Brian Scruggs, and costume designs by students Habtamu Anderson and Rachel Saylor. The Dance concert opens this Friday, November 11th and shows the 11th and 12th at 7:30, and the 12th at 3:30 PM in the PAC Studio Theatre.