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Seniors define how they “Surrender Contact” in final dance showcase

Archive photo of Jewett Center for the Performing Arts. Westminster dancers create and perform "Surrendered Contact" in May of 2021.
Archive photo of Jewett Center for the Performing Arts. Westminster College 2021 graduates perform “Surrendered Contact” to stream free for audiences.

Westminster College’s 2021 graduating seniors could never have predicted how different their final year of their undergraduate degrees was going to be. Dance majors approached the same challenges that plagued the rest of the student body in a creative way.

Senior dance majors decided they would still put on a safe performance this year despite the campus closure and social distancing requirements.

“Surrendered Contact” opened March 19 at 7:30 p.m. The performance was streamed on Vimeo and is available to all students, faculty and families for free.

The American arts sector has been seriously affected since the first COVID-19 case was reported within U.S. borders, according to the National Arts Administration and Policy Publications Database. There has been extreme financial loss and community interaction.

Students said that “Surrendered Contact” was a great way for the community to experience the arts in a safe environment.

“We were excited that we were able to offer access to so many more — and distant — family, friends, and community members,” said Kate Blair, a senior pursuing a customized major in dance pedagogy for multilingual learners. “Further, the online platform addresses some of the hierarchy of the arts and the financial inaccessibility of many live concerts.” 

Blair said the opportunity to reach more people was a hidden benefit of the pandemic.

The pandemic and its required safety measures even impacted how the senior dancers chose the showcase’s title.

“Eventually, we all agreed upon ‘Surrendered Contact’ because of everything the name represented, our experience surrendering into uncertainty and the unknown,” said Isabelle Armstrong, a senior dance major and business minor. “Also, giving up the ability to touch in partner work during a dance and not possessing a live audience.”

The show was choreographed by members of the class of 2021 along with guest choreographer, Eileen Rojas. Each senior said they drew inspiration from a unique source. 

“I aimed to craft a piece that explored living in states of uncertainty while developing my honors summer research that drew upon theories of liminality and belonging,” said Blair. “Sacred In-Between evolved into a reflection of these painful states of longing and transition that live in the silence of our hearts. As it unfolded, I became immersed in and embraced by the generosity of my dancers and the human spirit, realizing that in uncertainty we find community, and thus, peace.”

Due to the positive impact and increased accessibility, some said Westminster’s performing arts program may continue streaming events, even once life develops some post-COVID normalcy.

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Emmaline Russell
Emmaline Russell is a senior communication major from Cincinnati, Ohio. She is heavily involved in Westminster College's athletic community. Emmaline is captain of the women's lacrosse team and serves on the SAAC board. When she is not on the field or in the classroom, you can find her enjoying a nearby trail or crag. If it's rainy, your next best bet is searching Salt Lake City's museums and art galleries.

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